A report for the King County Council offered the chance for council members to discuss the emergency housing of about 200 people experiencing homelessness at the Red Lion Hotel on Grady Way in Renton.
The hotel’s use as a temporary homeless shelter has caused distress in recent weeks for city leaders and neighboring businesses.
As previously reported by the Renton Reporter, Mayor Armondo Pavone and other city leaders pleaded with the King County Council to close the Red Lion “de-intensification” shelter by July 9, citing an increase in emergency calls to the area. Renton officials also asked for a memorandum of understanding (MOU) about the use of the hotel.
The decision to extend the use of the hotel is up to King County Executive Dow Constantine. Since that request in early May, the city and county have not yet reached an MOU.
King County Council members are not directly involved with the lease extension on the hotel, but they discussed how the hotel has been working at a May 27 meeting.
Councilmember Dave Upthegrove made a statement on the hotel regarding policies that should surround the county’s use of the site. He also offered to help facilitate conversations between the city and county to finalize the language of an MOU. He said there needed to be respect and transparency during this time for the clients, city, affected businesses and hotel owners.
The report also showed that giving the clients access to basic resources of a private space, bathroom and bed at the Renton hotel has led to a physical transformation in some clients to the extent where social workers “have not physically recognized their clients despite long-standing service relationships” compared to their time at the shelter on Third Avenue in Seattle. The hotel has also helped stop the spread of COVID-19 in this homeless community — as of the writing of the report, 200 COVID-19 tests had been administered to the clients at Red Lion, all of which came back negative.
The Red Lion is housing more clients than any other emergency shelter in the county during this crisis at around 200 people. Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) Director Leo Flor told councilmembers that it’s important for people who have formed supportive communities to stay together. At the same time, county leaders are learning lessons about what size of shelter is most beneficial to clients.
“The work you have all done is literally life changing, from what I’ve heard from clients who are there,” Councilmember Girmay Zahilay said at the May 27 meeting, thanking housing advocates for their work.
The report states that King County used an equity impact tool to be aware of how the hotel could affect vulnerable populations with limited resources. The tool showed the region of the city with the hotel-turned-shelter was at low risk of suffering a long-term impact. At the county council meeting, staff noted the hotel’s distance from residential areas.