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Low-barrier housing project in White Center receives backlash from neighbors

WHITE CENTER, Wash. – A low-barrier emergency homeless shelter planned for a South King County neighborhood is facing last-minute backlash from neighbors near the proposed site, as they organize for a community meeting.

The homeless housing center proposed will accept anyone without contingencies based on alcohol or drug use, and without criminal background checks.

“If they are going to let anyone in, well, then that anybody is going to be hanging around,” said Rene Kippola.

Kippola lives next door to the now-vacant former King County clinic at 10821 8th Ave. SW. She said the idea of a low-barrier emergency housing facility in her neighborhood makes her uneasy.

“I think they said it’s going to house 70 people. Those 70 people are going to be hanging around, because that’s where they sleep,” she said.

Kippola said it’s more than a case of “not in my backyard,” with four schools within walking distance of the proposed location.

“You go right down this street and go into Cascade, keep going to go Evergreen,” explained John Wells pointing in every direction of the former county clinic building.

Wells said he will be attending a community action meeting on Thursday night to make sure county officials hear his concerns.

“We’re not opposed to them using this for some type of facility, just do your homework,” he said.

His opinions mirrored those of Kippola’s, who said, “I don’t think they researched it enough, I think they saw an empty building and thought, ‘convenient.’”

We brought their concerns to Coalition on Homelessness Executive Director Alison Eisenger. She said their organization has researched the homeless issue in White Center extensively and it continues to grow.

“People are anxious and people are concerned and they have questions that they need and want and deserve to have answered,” said Eisenger. “I think and I know … that when shelters open, when affordable housing opens all of sudden, people’s fears are not matched by reality.”

She said at last count, their organization found 180 people living without shelter in White Center; that number has doubled since 2015, which had doubled since their count in 2014.

“We all just went through the wettest October on record. The idea that we’re not going to bring people inside as fast as we can with our public resources, empty buildings is crazy,” she said.

With winter fast approaching, there is a rush for the resource, but Eisenger said it’s not because they are trying to pull anything over the community.

Kippola said she can see both sides of the situation, but said she still feels like King County went about it the wrong way and that’s the reason the project is facing such strong opposition.

The center was originally set to open Nov. 1, but that's been put off to another, unscheduled date.

The community being held Thursday was set to begin at 7 p.m. at the North Highline Fire Department at 1243 SW 112th Street in White Center. (Parking and Entrance are in the back of the station)