Seattle’s ‘low-barrier’ homeless shelter plan on hold

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SEATTLE – The proposed homeless shelter called the Navigation Center in Seattle’s International District is now on hold.

The pause happened after public backlash when opponents said the city did not do enough to bring community leaders into the discussion about the facility.

Friends of Little Saigon board chair Quynh Pham said her group was blindsided when the city announced the shelter would be in in her neighborhood at 12th Avenue South and South Weller Street.

“It was pretty much like, ‘This is going to happen and you guys are going to have to deal with it.’ And we were like, OK?” said Pham.

The Navigation Center is planned to be a 24/7 shelter where people struggling with mental health issues and addictions can go – and a place that won’t turn people away with pets or partners.

“We don’t want the navigation center in Little Saigon,” said Pham. “Mainly because of our previous experience with illegal encampments and a lot of issues surrounding homelessness."

It’s not hard to find unsanctioned homeless tent camps nearby, such as one along Interstate 90.

Only blocks away, the Navigation Center has been under construction with no official opening date planned.

“It’s been a little disappointing that it’s taken this long, but every neighborhood we go into, when we open up a facility, we have struggles,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray told Q13 News.

Murray vowed to work with neighbors and business owners in the International District – and promised the area won’t be stuck with a failing shelter.

“We’re going to work with them over the next few months to make sure we have a design that works for them,” he said. “I also made a promise to them that if it doesn’t work it, and it is an experiment as it is in other cities, that we will close it down.”

Pham said she is now on the community task force for the Navigation Center and she hopes Murray’s decision to temporarily hold off on opening the shelter means community groups, including hers, can finally share their input with city leaders.

“Even though we do oppose it being sited in the neighborhood, we’re trying to work as collaboratively as possible with the city of Seattle,” she said.

Murray said the city is planning to open the shelter sometime in June.