The former Econo Lodge in Federal Way will be renovated to house the FUSION Family Center emergency shelter in 2020. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

The former Econo Lodge in Federal Way will be renovated to house the FUSION Family Center emergency shelter in 2020. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Federal Way hotel to become FUSION Family Center emergency shelter

FUSION Family Center is expected to open in July 2020, the nonprofit executive director says.

A former hotel in Federal Way will soon be transformed into an emergency shelter for local families experiencing homelessness.

FUSION closed escrow on the Econo Lodge hotel in Federal Way on Nov. 7, said Robin O’Grady, FUSION executive director.

The site, renamed as the FUSION Family Center, is expected to serve 116 families a year, or 406 individuals with more than 250 of those anticipated to be children.

“The FUSION Family Center Shelter and services will be specific to families,” O’Grady said. “Federal Way families will have first priority.”

The family center will consist of 29 total units, 22 of which will provide 90-day emergency shelter and seven units reserved as variable stay with more flexible potential use, O’Grady explained. The shelter will have two fully ADA-accessible units.

“The program will provide 90 days of emergency shelter but will have some capacity for variable lengths of stay for families who are timing out of shelter when permanent housing opportunities are on the near horizon,” she said.

After the early November closing of the property, located at 1505 S. 328th St., the project now moves into the demolition phase. Renovations are set to begin mid-January.

The grand opening of the FUSION Family Center is expected to be in July 2020, O’Grady said.

At the shelter, FUSION plans to offer on-site housing and employment specialists, counseling, 24/7 staff, and hopefully after-school programming, O’Grady noted.

The drug-free site will not be open to the public, as FUSION staff and volunteers plan to screen families via phone, conduct background checks, and meet with families for in-person comprehensive assessments.

After passing the initial screenings, families will meet with an intake specialist for a comprehensive assessment and create a family stability plan with weekly check-ins during the family’s shelter stay.

FUSION will also be accepting family referrals from community organizations such as Mary’s Place, Communities in Schools and the McKinney-Vento Homelessness Awareness Act among other providers.

“Because there are no family shelter opportunities in Federal Way,” O’Grady said of the family center’s importance.

As of this month, there are 564 students experiencing homelessness in the Federal Way Public Schools district, according to Kassie Swenson, chief of communications for FWPS.

At this same time last year, the number was 403 and at the end of the 2018-19 school year, there were 762 students who experienced homelessness, Swenson noted.

The $6 million cost to bring the FUSION Family Center to life is funded by grants secured by the city of Federal Way, Rep. Kristine Reeves, Sen. Claire Wilson, Rep. Frank Chopp, and King County Council member Pete von Reichbauer, O’Grady said, expressing her gratitude for the political powerhouses standing behind the project.

In total, FUSION received $3 million in funds from the state of Washington and $3 million from King County for the site’s purchase, renovation and partial operations for approximately three years.

“Sustainability of this project will be key moving forward,” she said. “While we have support through King County for operations for the first two to three years, we will need to intentionally and strategically focus on a sustainability plan for future operations.”

Fundraising efforts will include an annual event, and public and private grants, along with leveraging community partnerships, she added.

O’Grady said the nonprofit is already taking steps to plan for the family center’s future.

FUSION will be leaning on the local, county and state government along with foundation grants and donations to sustain the shelter, she said.

“That’s going to be the number one thing we’re looking at in 2020 and moving forward, is how are we going to sustain it,” O’Grady said.

The idea for a shelter in Federal Way stems from the initiatives of the Mayor’s Homelessness Task Force, created in December 2018.

“I feel like this project really is in alignment with our mission, and FUSION, and myself, really believe in transitional housing,” O’Grady said. “[This shelter] is critical in being able to provide security, housing and self sufficiency for families, and will support a continuum of services for families experiencing homelessness in our community … We’ll carry that forward in this way with this shelter project.”

To learn more about the FUSION Family Center

FUSION anticipates hosting once-a-month community informational sessions beginning in January for the public to learn more about the family center and ask questions about the project.

FUSION will be accepting volunteer applications for the shelter in early 2020. For more information, visit the nonprofit’s website.

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