With snow in the forecast, FW activates emergency overnight warming shelter

Overnight shelter open at the Federal Way Community Center from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through the weekend.

With low temperatures and snowfall in the forecast, the City of Federal Way activated its emergency overnight warming shelter for homeless individuals on Feb. 11.

The emergency shelter is activated when the temperature dips to 32 degrees or below for at least 24 consecutive hours, or if snow accumulation is three inches or more, to provide a safe and warm facility for people experiencing homelessness to escape severe weather conditions at night.

Located at the Federal Way Community Center, the emergency warming shelter opens at 8 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis to fill between 30 beds available, said Steve McNey, communications and government affairs coordinator for Federal Way.

The overnight warming shelter will be open through Sunday, Feb. 14, and is open to adults and kids at night, however pets are not allowed. Guests will be required to leave in the daytime.

Due to COVID-19 protocols, the amount of beds available for homeless individuals throughout King County has dropped to about 400, McNey said.

In addition to Federal Way’s emergency shelter, the city will also be working through their referral partner agencies to provide about 20 hotel vouchers to individuals in need. The city is also working with the Red Lion Inn and Suites Federal Way, located at 1688 S. 348th St., to provide rooms, estimating they could serve up to 20 people in 10 rooms.

“These are absolutely life-saving measures,” McNey told the Mirror. The limited capacity of the emergency warming shelter and hotel room options is a difficult challenge and the city wants to “make sure we’re getting our residents into these facilities first.”

Working with the Red Lion Inn is part of the city’s plan, in partnership with King County, to create a long-term shelter in Federal Way for homeless individuals, McNey said, adding that a long-term shelter is a future project.

In October 2020, Metropolitan King County Council approved the King County Health through Housing ordinance, creating a 0.1% sales tax which the county is planning on bonding against, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars for affordable housing projects, the Mirror previously reported.

This funding can be used to buy existing hotels, motels and nursing homes, then turn them into emergency and affordable housing units with services for mental and behavioral health. The original proposal would have raised nearly $68 million a year, allowing the county to raise $400 million in bonds. But seven cities enacted their own version of the tax, reducing the amount the county will collect by some $17 million a year.

The Federal Way Community Center is located at 876 S. 333rd St. Federal Way. Operation hours of the emergency warming shelter are 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.