A day shelter for the homeless in Federal Way was the talk of the town at the Feb. 17 City Council meeting.
The Council chamber and overflow rooms were filled with 175 spectators. About 10 spoke during public comment — all in support of the day and hygiene center serving the homeless in Federal Way and regionally.
Many of those who spoke during public comment advocated for the center to be located in Federal Way.
The meeting opened with state Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, announcing $100,000 was added in the Senate operating budget for planning to develop day and hygiene services in South King County.
The operating budget has not passed the Senate.
Mayor Jim Ferrell said city officials will be “down in Olympia testifying on this.”
Community Services Manager Jeff Watson presented the city’s research document on day shelters and hygiene service in South King County.
Ferrell said the city put the document together in an effort to “collect data on what is being done and making sure we have a full understanding of the inventory of services and perhaps some holes in that coverage.”
Watson said there are 26 shelters in South King County and 14 provide some type of hygiene services such as laundry, showers and restrooms.
Watson said Federal Way’s general fund directs about $500,000 to human services, including 2.6 full time employees, and the city provides funding for 39 agencies.
Chief of Staff Brian Wilson opened his presentation, noting at a Nov. 11 assembly on homelessness Ferrell agreed to work with Sound Alliance to find partners for a day shelter and hygiene center.
Wilson said, “Homelessness is a regional issue, but we also see the impacts in our community. So we have to have a view to the region as well as locally.”
Wilson noted individuals who are homeless commonly have many other issues.
“It isn’t that they just don’t have a place to live,” Wilson said. “There are often co-occurring disorders. There are issues in terms of chemical dependency, mental illness, psychological issues and all of these elements often are packaged. It’s not just one thing for homelessness.”
Wilson said the city needs to have a plan to sustain services provided to homeless populations.
Rev. James Kubal-Komoto with the Saltwater Church in Des Moines and a member of the Federal Way Day Shelter Commission, said the problem stemming from a lack of day and hygiene services include there is no place for individuals to shower, receive mail or do laundry. Kubal-Komoto said the lack of a day shelter has a “negative impact” on libraries and downtown businesses.
“The majority of the homeless in Federal Way have roots in Federal Way,” he said. “Exporting our homeless to Seattle, Tacoma, Kent or Auburn is not a solution. A regional solution is wonderful, but a regional solution cannot be spelled NIMBY (not in my backyard).”
According to Kubal-Komoto, human services per capita funding from the general fund is $7 for Kent, $6.43 for Auburn and $4.73 for Federal Way. He said the figures do not include ongoing supplements and community block grants development funds.
“We want Federal Way to be a truly great city,” Kubal-Komoto said. “But part of being a great city is taking care of the least fortunate and most vulnerable.”
Bill Hallerman, Catholic Community Services director, said hygiene services provide an anchor point for people.
“It will make a huge difference in the lives of those folks,” Hallerman said. “It’s really just a question of political will.”
Rodney Castro, who is homeless, said a day center will mean “to me and my brothers and sisters who are homeless is we would have a place where we can have dignity. Where we can shower daily, have clean clothes, positive fellowship …. This day center in itself … will give us hope.”