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Homeless shelter expansion plans halted for Chinatown-International District

caption: Tents line South Weller Street near the intersection of 12th Avenue South on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, in Seattle.
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Tents line South Weller Street near the intersection of 12th Avenue South on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Lots of people in Seattle's Chinatown-International District are applauding King County's decision to scrap expansion plans for a homeless shelter in their neighborhood.

"King County was not planning on our community elders becoming such a massive force in demanding the proper community outreach and forcing the permitting process. Thank you! We did it together! The Fight Continues," Friends of Seattle CID wrote on its website.

The plan called for expanding the existing 270-bed shelter operated by the Salvation Army, but King County Executive Dow Constantine announced Friday that will not happen. Instead, the shelter will continue to operate at its current level and money for the expansion will be redirected to other homelessness projects.

“Over the past six weeks, community members have shared their feedback about the current state of public safety and other concerns in the Chinatown-International District and surrounding neighborhoods," Constantine said in a statement. “None of these problems will be solved without building more housing and safe, dignified shelter, and we will continue to seek out opportunities in every part of the region to bring more of our neighbors inside.”

Constantine's office says that money initially slated for the Salvation Army expansion will be used for a one-time wage hike for providers, as well as a project to house people experiencing homelessness in the Green River area.

Hundreds of people have taken to the streets over the past month to protest the expansion in Seattle's CID, arguing that the area already has its fair share of homeless shelters and services.

According to Friends of Seattle CID, its work is not over.

"We don’t know if the county and the city believes it’s now resolved of all further action," the group said on its website. "Our original concerns have not been addressed. We still want community engagement and from that, a public safety plan. We do not have a neighborhood agreement with the current shelter."

Tanya Woo, a volunteer with the CID Community Watch group, says they've won this battle, but "we are still at war."

"Our businesses are struggling. Our residents don't feel safe after 6 p.m. We're seeing a huge lack of services after 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.," she told KUOW. "We're just reeling after these last two years."

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