Hope Church in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, April 5, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Hope Church in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, April 5, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

County hits pause on Hope Church shelter plan in Everett

Officials canceled public meetings and won’t proceed until the Everett mayor and City Council weigh in on the plan.

EVERETT — Snohomish County leaders have paused efforts to acquire Hope Covenant Church for use as a homeless shelter and won’t restart until Everett’s top elected officials make clear they are on board with the endeavor.

A senior adviser to Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers sent a letter to Mayor Cassie Franklin and City Council President Brenda Stonecipher on Thursday seeking “the City’s guidance on how it would like to move forward.”

Further, the letter asked the mayor and council members to “consider and vote on a joint resolution” indicating their interest in proceeding. And if they back the county’s purchase of the church for a shelter at 4502 Rucker Ave. — an idea city administration members first suggested last fall — “it is clear that more community engagement would be necessary, and this engagement should involve both County and City officials.”

The county also postponed public meetings planned for Friday and Monday, pending a response from the city.

“Neighborhood engagement related to this project is paused until we receive guidance from the City on how they would like to proceed,” Kelsey Nyland, a county spokesperson, said Friday.

The abrupt turn of events followed back-to-back public meetings this week hosted by the county in which dozens of residents vociferously opposed converting Hope Church into use as a year-round shelter for up to 40 homeless people or an emergency shelter from extreme weather. Some supporters showed up, too, urging empathy and compassion for people living on the street.

Franklin, on Friday, sidestepped the county’s request.

“We do need more shelter options, but we do need to be sure they are suitable sites,” she said in a prepared response to questions. “We are going to be reaching out to our county partners to get more information and also spend some time talking to our own internal expert staff to ensure we understand the full picture.”

The mayor acknowledged the currents of angst, fear and anger flowing through the neighborhood.

“I want these community members to know that I’m hearing their worries,” she said. “I want to ensure that any concerns are appropriately addressed by the county before this project moves forward any further. I will also be working to make sure that we, as a city, are working more in tandem with our county partners to prevent any further confusion.”

Since 2019, the county has funded a 40-bed congregate shelter out of the United Church of Christ’s basement in Everett. It was never meant to operate on a long-term basis. Everett Gospel Mission runs the shelter under a contract expiring in June that could be renewed.

Since at least August 2022, staff from the city’s Community Development division have asked the county to move the shelter to a new location, wrote county Executive Director A Boungjaktha in the memo. In October, city staff alerted them that Hope Covenant Church was looking to sell.

“City staff identified the location as a potential suitable replacement for the shelter at UCC, and requested the County evaluate this property,” she wrote. “The County moved forward with the City’s request to evaluate the Hope Covenant Church as a potential replacement shelter location and has been in ongoing contact with City staff throughout this process.”

County officials considered and evaluated about a dozen other sites across the county. Most required costly renovations in order to function as a shelter. Hope Church would not.

It’s suitable physically. And it is near medical care, behavioral health services and substance use treatment programs. It’s also close to bus routes and can be fenced on the residential side of the property to provide added security.

While no purchase agreement is in hand, the county and church property owners did negotiate an estimated purchase price, according to the memo.

In late February, a top county official met with each City Council member to share what was underway. Community outreach followed, culminating in this week’s meetings.

The mayor’s office, meanwhile, had known about the plan for months.

“The surprise for me was that the County asserts that it was the City administration who approached the County about purchasing Hope Church,” Stonecipher said Friday in an email response to questions. “If true, it makes sense that the County would want to regroup, if only to see what the City is going to do, now that there are public concerns to address.”

Stonecipher said she plans to invite county officials to brief the council at a future meeting. Otherwise, there’s no formal role for the council as the property is zoned for such a use and the Everett planning director can set conditions on its use as a shelter, she said.

As for herself, she said she needs to know more before weighing in, as the county asks.

“I thought this location held promise, but I would need more concrete information before I could determine if I would support it,” she said. “The County indicated at that time that they would like the City to be on board before they move forward. I haven’t been provided with a site plan, management plan, or anything else that I would need to understand the scope and impact of this project. Thus, at this time I am neutral — I simply don’t have enough information to make a determination.

The council, she added, “is unlikely to endorse this location if City administration is not supporting it.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

A fatal accident the afternoon of Dec. 18 near Clinton ended with one of the cars involved bursting into flames. The driver of the fully engulfed car was outside of the vehicle by the time first responders arrived at the scene. (Whidbey News-Times/Submitted photo)
Driver sentenced in 2021 crash that killed Everett couple

Danielle Cruz, formerly of Lynnwood, gets 17½ years in prison. She was impaired by drugs when she caused the crash that killed Sharon Gamble and Kenneth Weikle.

A person walks out of the Everett Clinic on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The Everett Clinic changing name to parent company Optum in 2024

The parent company says the name change will not affect quality of care for patients in Snohomish County.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
Lynnwood settles for $1.7 million after 2021 suicide at city jail

Jail staff reportedly committed 16 safety check violations before they found Tirhas Tesfatsion, 47, unresponsive in her cell.

Diane Kay Thompson, center, listens during their sentencing at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Marysville woman sentenced to 2 years for running over, killing husband

Diane Thompson pleaded guilty to manslaughter. “My home was taken, my daughters hate me and I have no money to my name,” she said.

The Marysville Municipal Jail is pictured Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Marysville weighs mandatory jail time for repeated ‘public disorder’

The “three strikes” proposal sets a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail for crimes like public drug use and trespassing.

A girl walks her dog along a path lined with dandelions at Willis D. Tucker Community Park on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Spraying in Willis Tucker Park resurfaces debate over herbicides

Park staff treated about 11,000 square feet with glyphosate and 2,4-D. When applied correctly, staff said they aren’t harmful.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
County Council delays vote on requiring businesses to take cash

Concerns over information and enforcement postponed the council’s scheduled vote on the ordinance Wednesday in Snohomish County.

Thrill-seekers fly through the air on a ride during opening day of the Evergreen State Fair on Thursday, August 24, 2023, in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Evergreen State Fair attendance dips 9% from 2022

Slightly over 228,000 people attended the fair this year in Monroe, down from 253,000 last year and 355,000 in 2019.

Most Read