Enraged residents of Seattle’s Chinatown clash with council members over homeless megaplex

Bronson Winslow, DCNF

  •  Over 200 Seattle, Washington, Chinatown residents protested a proposed 500-person homeless shelter at the King County City Council Meeting Tuesday.
  • A majority of the protesters’ concerns revolved around increases in crime associated with an influx of homeless people.
  • The proposed building will cost the county $66.5 million dollars to build and $22 million per year to run.

Over 200 residents of Seattle, Washington’s Chinatown marched on the Metropolitan King County Council Tuesday demanding a homeless megaplex, planned without community support, be moved to a different location.

The protest follows efforts by community leaders and citizens to block a new 500-person homeless shelter that would cost the county $66.5 million dollars to construct and $22 million dollars to run. The protesters, representing the Chinatown International District or “Chinatown-ID,” marched together to the council chambers and peacefully filled multiple floors awaiting the public comment period.

The comment period was narrowed to one hour; therefore the number of speakers was limited, yet those who did speak emphasized that they feared for their lives as the homeless population increases. Translators were intended to be brought in by the council, but King County Language Access Coordinator Leslie Monteiro said there were “no Cantonese translators available.”

The protesters maneuvered around this inconvenience and brought their own translators to assist with the public comment period. Many of the protestors were elderly and did not speak English.

A woman referred to as Miss Kay opened the public comment period telling council members there is already “crime in front of my business.” She asked the council to address the current crime situation in Chinatown-ID before working about opening more homeless shelters. “Stop helping crime,” Kay said. “Soto (the shelter) will kill all of us.”

A woman who goes by Golden told the council that she has seen drugs, crime and violence over the years she has been in Chinatown. Once homeless herself, Golden told the council that the homeless shelter should be put in their neighborhoods because it will only bring more crime.

“Why don’t you build the megaplex near you guys and you guys can see what we have actually been going through for almost two years? Again, I’m here supporting Miss Kay and all the students because again, we have children, we want to have passions just like you guys, but at the same time if we’re being stopped because you guys decided to build this megaplex, and don’t give us a chance to actually have a voice, where do we stand?” Golden said.

Of the $1.25 billion to be spent on critical shelter and behavioral health services in King County, $66.5 million will be used to construct the homeless megaplex that will house more than 500 people. The shelter is estimated to cost $22 million per year to keep open.

Earlier in the day, King County Executive Dow Constantine, the main endorser of the facility, talked about $1.25 billion in funding for critical shelter and behavioral health services for the homeless. Though Chinatown-ID has protested the homeless megaplex since the idea was introduced, Constantine told those in attendance, “This budget is a reflection of our values, as I said, and it prioritizes investments in communities and populations for this rare opportunity to ensure we can meet our true north of making this a welcoming community where every person can thrive.”

Many protesters do not oppose the proposition but want the council to listen to the opinions of residents near the shelter. “We want to say, engage us. Listen to us. We’re not asking for them not to build this, we’re just saying give us our voice,” resident Matt Chan told KOMO News last week. “I have concerns if the shelter is actually put in place without mitigation and without consulting the neighborhood because you can come down here any weekend and you can see the activity.”

Last week Tanya Woo told the Daily Caller News Foundation, “I was watching this meeting, and they’re talking about the importance of having a community outreach engagement plan and also good neighborhood agreements. We haven’t learned any information, no one’s been talking to us. No one’s engaged us. No one has done any community outreach. We find this to be very much evidence of systemic racism.”

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