Inside Pallet, an Everett company that builds pre-fab temporary shelters for people who are homeless. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Inside Pallet, an Everett company that builds pre-fab temporary shelters for people who are homeless. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

‘Pallet’ village for Everett’s homeless could open in June

The Everett City Council must still vote on the project’s components, including a “no-sit, no-lie” ordinance.

EVERETT — Homeless people who camp along Smith Avenue beneath the I-5 overpass might soon have more than tents and a concrete bridge to call home.

Officials are proposing a pilot program that would create a new community of individual shelter units behind the Everett Gospel Mission’s nearby shelter at 3711 Smith Ave.

The makeshift “pallet shelter” village, funded with roughly $1 million in state grant money, would house some 30 people for about a year while they try to find a longer-term housing solution, city staff told the Everett City Council late Wednesday.

Anyone left loitering in the area, though, would need to go elsewhere. Officials pitching the pilot program will also ask the council to approve an ordinance that would prohibit people from sitting or lying on the streets, sidewalks and other public rights of way surrounding the site, said Julie Willie, Everett’s community development director.

Willie first publicly outlined the project last fall after the city won a state grant that will pay for the pilot project. On Wednesday, she provided new details, including the proposed location and the recommended “no-sit, no-lie” rule for the surrounding area.

Officials say the pilot project is intended to provide assistance to those experiencing homelessness while also creating “legal tools” to help reduce impacts to residents and businesses in an area of the city that has long felt the brunt of the crisis.

City staffers plan to return to the council in the coming months to obtain various approvals for the project, with the goal of having the shelter community up and running in June.

A federal court ruled in 2018 that governments cannot legally enforce ordinances that bar homeless people from sleeping or camping on public property if those individuals don’t have an alternative place to go, such as a shelter or sanctioned encampments. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ high-profile decision in Martin v. City of Boise has forced some U.S. cities to rethink their approach to addressing homelessness.

But Everett City Attorney David Hall told the council that the ruling makes an exception for no-sit, no-lie laws that cover a limited time period or geographic area.

“We’re pretty confident that that it is very defensible,” Hall told the City Council.

He cited a footnote in the court decision that states, “even where shelter is unavailable, an ordinance prohibiting sitting, lying, or sleeping outside at particular times or in particular locations might well be constitutionally permissible.”

Council members expressed general support for the pilot project, though no vote was taken. Councilmen Scott Bader and Jeff Moore noted that they would only support the planned community if the no-sit, no-lie rule was implemented, too. They cited the need to protect businesses and residents in the area of the men’s shelter.

The pilot community would be on what is now a vacant lot just east of the men’s shelter, across an alleyway, Willie said.

The Everett Gospel Mission has expressed interest in managing the community by providing “day-to-day oversight,” food, clothing and some other resources, said Sylvia Anderson, CEO of the mission.

The need for housing among people experiencing homelessness has intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic because the men’s shelter and other similar local facilities have had to slash bed counts in order to comply with social distancing requirements, Anderson said.

The stigma against people living on the streets has intensified, too, creating additional safety issues in the area surrounding the mission, she said.

She recalled three recent incidents of passersby throwing firecrackers into groups of homeless people camping beneath the I-5 overpass.

“We really need to address what’s happening under the bridge,” she said. “We’ve got to have some alternatives. I don’t want any other businesses or neighborhoods to be negatively impacted because people don’t have anywhere else to go. So we need to try this innovative approach.”

The proposed pilot site is owned by Everett Transit. The land’s current industrial zoning designation allows a religious organization to establish a temporary shelter for up to four consecutive months. However, Willie noted, state law provides an avenue for that time limit to be extended. The city hearing examiner would likely need to grant that extension through a public process, she said.

City staff chose the lot after reviewing a variety of locations based on factors such as surrounding neighborhoods, land use restrictions and proximity to bus stops and emergency services.

A diagram of the pallet shelter community shows 21 units, including one for a caretaker, plus a dumpster and portable toilets. The village would be surrounded by fencing and equipped with heat, electricity and basic water service.

City officials plan to purchase the individual shelters from Pallet, an Everett-based manufacturer that designed the portable structures as a novel approach to providing interim housing to those living on the streets while they search for permanent homes.

The budget for the pilot program is about $1.04 million, counting a year’s worth of security and sanitation services and other operational expenses, Willie said. The state Department of Commerce’s Shelter Program would provide about $985,000, including some $250,000 that Snohomish County was awarded and allotted for the pilot. Another $55,000 would come from a sales tax intended to fund mental health and addiction treatment programs.

The council will be asked later this month to approve a grant agreement finalizing how the state money will be spent.

The no-sit, no-lie ordinance will likely be formally considered at public meetings this spring, Willie said.

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road on Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Long live the Speedway! Mukilteo’s main drag won’t be renamed

The public shot down the mayor’s idea to change the name: 77% voted ‘No’ in an online survey, with 95% opposed on Facebook.

Everett
Motorcyclist dies in crash on East Marine View Drive in Everett

Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, a motorcycle and a vehicle crashed into each other at the intersection of 11th street and East Marine View Drive.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Darrington in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Motorcyclist dies in crash on Highway 530

Jeremy Doyle, 46, was riding east near Darrington when he crashed into the side of a car that was turning left.

The Marysville School District office on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Financially insolvent’ Marysville schools to get unprecedented oversight

Superintendent Chris Reykdal will convene a first-of-its-kind Financial Oversight Committee, he wrote in a letter Tuesday.

Woodside Elementary Principal Betty Cobbs on Monday, June 17, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett’s first Black principal retires after 51 years

In her office, Betty Cobbs kept a black-and-white photo of herself at age 5: “I am right there, with dreams of becoming an educator.”

Junelle Lewis, right, daughter Tamara Grigsby and son Jayden Hill sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during Monroe’s Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
On Juneteenth: ‘We can always say that there is hope’

The Snohomish County NAACP is co-sponsoring a celebration Saturday near Snohomish, with speakers, music and food.

Granite Falls
Man, 35, dies from heart attack while hiking Lake 22

The man suffered a heart attack about 1½ miles into the 6-mile hike east of Granite Falls on Friday, authorities said.

36 hours after final show, Everett radio host Charlye Parker, 80, dies

When Parker got into radio, she was a rarity: a woman in a DJ booth. For the past 12 years, she hosted weekend country music shows at KXA.

Dr. Scott Macfee and Dr. Daniel Goodman outside of the Community Health Center on Wednesday, June 12, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett CHC doctors, feeling like ‘commodities,’ speak up on ailing system

At the Community Health Center of Snohomish County, doctors say they feel like “rats getting off a sinking ship.” They want it to get better.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Man charged with shooting at ex-girlfriend, child in Mountlake Terrace

The man, 21, showed up to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment and opened fire through the door, new court records say.

People walk along Olympic Avenue past Lifeway Cafe and Olympic Theater that currently hosts Lifeway Church on Friday, July 7, 2023 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Arlington churches waged covert ‘battle’ against Pride event, records show

Sermons, emails and interviews reveal how an LGBTQ+ nonprofit became the target of a covert campaign by local evangelical leaders.

Drive-in movies are coming to the north Island. (Port of Everett image)
Where to catch outdoor movies this summer in Snohomish County

Bring a chair, blanket and the kids for a cinema night under the stars with your favorite movies, including “Barbie” and “Trolls.”