EVERETT — Snohomish County is giving $4 million to the City of Everett so officials and staff can find a new site for a shelter that has operated since 2019 near downtown.
“This effort and these funds are entirely unrelated and will not be used in any way for the Waits Motel property,” city staff wrote.
The council agreed to accept the county’s money in a 6-0 vote Wednesday.
“Every neighborhood needs 100 beds if we’re going to accommodate our future growth,” Everett Community Development director Julie Willie said. “So we all collectively have to work really hard and we have to really make good choices and defend our choices.”
The money comes in the wake of the county’s scuttled proposal earlier this year to buy Hope Church, at 4502 Rucker Ave., and turn it into a low-barrier homeless shelter.
The shelter would have housed up to 40 people and replaced the congregate shelter near downtown at United Church of Christ at 2624 Rockefeller Ave.
But some people in the nearby neighborhoods said they opposed Hope Church becoming a shelter over fears it would endanger children near a park and the YMCA.
Supporters of the proposed shelter argued it was needed so people can stabilize their lives in pursuit of employment, health or sobriety.
Hundreds of shelter beds are needed across Snohomish County.
There were 1,285 homeless people during the county’s annual point-in-time count earlier this year. It continued a decade-long rise, and many who work in homeless outreach programs believe the snapshot figure is lower than the actual number.
As of late 2022, there were 683 shelter beds available year-round. Another 130 are being developed through the county’s purchase of two motels in Edmonds and Everett, and 157 are available during cold weather.
Since 2019, the county has funded the 40-bed shelter in the United Church of Christ basement. But city officials had asked county leaders to find a new site for years, Willie said.
When the county ditched purchasing Hope Church along Evergreen Way in late April, the plan was to give the city money to find a replacement, an executive director in County Executive Dave Somers’ office wrote in a letter to Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin.
The county extended its lease agreement for the United Church of Christ shelter until a new site was ready.
“We believe turning 40 vulnerable people onto the streets of Everett is neither compassionate nor good for public safety,” county executive director Lacey Harper wrote in the letter.
After Franklin announced her intent to condemn the Waits Motel, long a source of complaints and emergency responder calls in north Everett, some people in the area worried the city was looking to convert it into a shelter. But Franklin and other staff have reiterated their plan for condemnation is to purchase the property, demolish the building, then have it redeveloped into residential housing.