EVERETT — The city is set to spend federal COVID-19 recovery funds on 40 more small shelters for people who experience chronic homelessness.
The Everett City Council approved Wednesday a $477,734.31 contract with Pallet Shelter, an Everett-based manufacturer of tiny homes that are quick to erect and easy to clean. Everett is using some of its $20.6 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the new shelters, which the law allows as an expense.
“I obviously support this,” council President Brenda Stonecipher said, adding that she wanted more temporary housing available as soon it could be.
But the small homes aren’t likely to all be deployed this year because the city hasn’t decided where to put them.
The 2020 Snohomish County Point in Time homeless count tallied 673 people who were unsheltered. According to the staff contract summary presented to the City Council, the number of people without a house increased almost 50% and shelter capacity decreased due to physical distancing public health guidelines during the pandemic.
The new shelters can house between 40 and 60 people, in addition to the 30-person capacity of the units already opened. Half are 64 square feet, and half are 100 square feet. Each will come with an air conditioner, heater and bed.
The city also is buying a two-stall bathroom unit with a shower, sink and toilet for $34,995.
Some of the shelters could go on the same 0.7-acre site where Everett opened its 20-unit Pallet Shelter Pilot Project earlier this year. The Everett Gospel Mission manages the tiny shelter village on previously vacant city-owned property behind the mission in the 3700 block of Smith Avenue. The land-use permit approved by the independent hearing examiner allows up to 54 units there.
There is no cap for how long a person or people (the site admits couples, as well as pets) can stay.
Councilmember Scott Bader said his support for the contract and shelter expansion was contingent upon the council approving new sites and the backing of people who live in those areas.
“Without the support of the neighborhood group, I think it is bound to have problems,” he said.
Property and other alleged crimes in the area around the Everett Gospel Mission have stressed business owners and residents in recent years. That prompted the City Council to pass a “no-sit, no-lie” ordinance — in tandem with the tiny shelter village — that made lingering along the roads in the area east of Broadway from 41st Street to Pacific Avenue a misdemeanor offense.
In June, people started moving into the shelters. There are 25 residents now.
“We haven’t received any complaints from the surrounding businesses,” city spokesman Julio Cortes said.
Last month, the council discussed Everett’s strategies to reduce homelessness. Councilmember Judy Tuohy reiterated concern from that meeting about what tactics city staff are working on and could propose.
Everett Community Development Director Julie Willie said the city is pursuing “longer-term, bigger strategies” which require coordination with Snohomish County and other cities.
Until those are in place, the city can expand the Pallet Shelter Pilot Project, which is permitted for more shelters, Willie said. The manufacturer is now busier, and it could take time for the new shelters to be made, so the city wanted to get in an order now.
But Cortes said the city doesn’t expect to add more locations this year.
Everett staff are considering other sites, which would involve neighborhood input and need council approval.