The Federal Way Inn and Suites at 1688 S. 348th St., which was formerly the Red Lion hotel. Photo taken in February 2023. (Sound Publishing file photo)

The Federal Way Inn and Suites at 1688 S. 348th St., which was formerly the Red Lion hotel. Photo taken in February 2023. (Sound Publishing file photo)

Intended as shelters for homeless people, Federal Way hotels remain closed

Catholic Community Services: ‘We have nowhere to send people.’

Two hotel buildings were purchased by King County in 2021 to provide housing for homeless individuals in Federal Way. Another motel was fully funded for a year to fill a gap while the others were renovated.

Almost three years later, none of them are open.

“We have nowhere to send people,” said Lady Siufanua, division director of South King County Shelter and Day Center programs of Catholic Community Services, in December. She manages the Day Center in Federal Way and said it is frustrating to provide services during the day, but have nowhere to connect people with shelter at night when the center closes. “It’s the middle of winter and all we can do is give them bus tickets so they can ride transit all night and try not to freeze.”

The Federal Way Mirror newspaper reported on these ongoing issues in February 2023, describing a lack of communication between city officials and the county and the issues preventing them from opening.

Federal Way Inn and Suites (formerly Red Lion)

Back in February, the property at 1688 S. 348th St. was in limbo after a meth contamination clean up and a burst pipe caused delays in opening building as a transitional housing location. After an assessment that was only completed in November of 2023, King County now “intends to take a plan for expedited repairs to the City of Federal Way by mid-January to approve the next phase of construction and open doors,” spokesman Chase Gallagher said in an email on Dec. 20.

The goal now is to start the work of “bringing it up to occupiable standards to convert it into emergency living quarters for our unsheltered neighbors,” according to Gallagher.

As previously reported in the Mirror, the property may also be potentially impacted by the future light rail, meaning all of this renovation could never result in sheltering vulnerable community members.

There are multiple possible routes of the South Federal Way portion of the Tacoma Dome Link Extension, which will extend south from South 320th Street in Federal Way.

“That area is under study and Sound Transit is working with all potentially affected property owners,” Maria Buchanan, a spokesperson for Sound Transit, told The Mirror in an email on Jan. 3. “We’ll know more summer 2024 when the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is published.”

Stevenson Motel

Although Catholic Community Services (CCS) was poised to rent the Stevenson Motel on Pacific Highway for a year to provide an alternative emergency shelter during the delay of the Red Lion assessment and renovation, this did not happen.

The application for CCS to utilize the Stevenson was denied on May 3, 2023. This was officially due to the separation requirement in the city’s revised code (FWRC 19.220.105, Special Regulations and Notes 2(a)(i)), but a petition and public comment were also referred to and included in the city documents regarding the decision.

This requirement states that the city may not permit uses of emergency shelter if the proposed emergency housing and shelter is not distanced at least 1,000 feet from any other emergency housing and shelter.

The “emergency housing and shelter” in question is the Day Center, also owned and operated by Catholic Community Services. The Day Center provides space to cook, do laundry, receive referrals to housing support, healthcare pop-ups and more at 33505 13th Place S., Suite D, in Federal Way.

The Day Center does not provide any overnight shelter and is not open on weekends.

The Stevenson Motel at 33330 Pacific Highway South is located approximately 0.3 miles by walking from the center, meaning it would have provided convenient access for overnight shelter and housing for people who utilize the Day Center. Measured as the crow flies, the Stevenson is just 79 feet too close to the Day Center.

A petition signed by over 600 people opposed the use of the Stevenson Motel as temporary emergency shelter. The petition stated that residents and local small businesses are “just starting to recover from the effects of the pandemic. It is unfair to place a homeless shelter near dense lower-income residences and primarily minority-owned businesses. This action goes against the city’s oath to equity and diversity.”

The petition was delivered to the city via email from an employee of a property management office at Hometown Plaza named Sandy Shim. Hometown Plaza is located next door to the Stevenson Motel.

In the email, Shim states: “The tenants and customers who frequent the businesses object to having a homeless shelter next door. We have signed a petition objecting the placement of homeless shelter and I have attached it to this email. Main reason is security and panhandling. Even now we have some panhandling going on. They bang on the windows and won’t stop until opening the window or door or leave the premises. This action scares some customers away and will not come back. Please do put us (tenants and customers) in mind in deciding.”

Dan Wise, director of the Coordinated Care Agency for Catholic Community Services, responded to the petition and public comments in a letter in February 2023.

“We believe the goal of our proposed services under this permit application will address the concerns raised during the public comments process,” Wise said in the letter, explaining that “the goal of our shelters is not only to provide immediate relief to the crisis of homelessness, but also to help individuals achieve stability and independence through access to vital resources and services.”

The letter also mentions that “during the first two years of the pandemic, Federal Way service providers, city staff and hospital employees had the ability to refer people in our community to an enhanced shelter. Since the South King County enhanced shelter closed in April of 2021, we have struggled to help people access shelter.”

A Des Moines shelter operated by CCS was the only one that accepted single men anywhere in South King County, according to the Seattle Times, but was shut down after the city changed their zoning laws.

Extended Stay America

Another hotel property is also being developed as supportive housing after being purchased by King County in August 2021 for $23.25 million, but is not yet open. The former Extended Stay America, located at 1400 S. 320th St., is listed at the “pre-occupancy” stage, according to the Health through Housing initiative page for King County.

This property is being managed by Urban League. Once open, it will provide 101 units of permanent supportive housing, according to that website. The Mirror has reached out to Urban League, but has not yet received a response or update.

According to their website: “The Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle (ULMS) serves as an architect of change with a mission of empowering those we serve by providing programming and essential services designed to support and encourage self-sufficiency in all aspects of life. With a vision of equity for all, the ULMS six areas of focus include advocacy & civic engagement, education, housing, public health, entrepreneurship support, and workforce development.”

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