Protesters gathered at Seattle City Hall on Tuesday to condemn the construction of a homeless shelter in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood on Tuesday afternoon.
About 100 people congregated outside the government building and expressed concerns that the planned shelter will be situated very close to the International District, which is composed of Chinatown, Little Saigon and Japantown.
Entrepreneur Tanya Woo, who is also a member of the Friends of Seattle Chinatown-International District, said the plan is not too different from decisions made in the past by local governments regarding predominantly Asian neighborhoods.
“This was approved back in May, and we’re just hearing about it this month,” Woo said. “We are most disappointed in the lack of transparency, lack of outreach, and engagement with the community. It follows the history of forced policies onto our community, which we had no input in.”
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According to Woo, the lack of outreach, engagement and consultation with the community is “systemic racism. I feel like they’re taking advantage of our Asian politeness.”
Woo also highlighted the recent trend of hate crimes against Asian Americans and the impact of the pandemic on small businesses in the Chinatown-International District and the rest of the country.
“Our community is struggling,” she added. “The anti-Asian hate, pandemic racism … we just really need to heal and get over all that past trauma. And having this project sprung on us without any warning — it feels like a betrayal.”
Speaking during the City Council meeting, Woo expressed the need for proper outreach and engagement with the community.
Another speaker, who has been a resident and business owner in Chinatown for three decades, lamented: “I am horrified to learn that the government is going to put together a problematic shelter or campsite very close to Chinatown. CID is a special community unique. Seventy percent to 80 percent of the residents are seniors and they don’t speak English and then they cannot communicate with the homeless, and they are afraid of them.”
Woo explained that the community members have nothing against the homeless but are concerned about criminal elements that the shelter might attract.
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“The unhoused are not the problem,” Woo added. “It’s the people who prey on them — the drug dealers.”
The plan, announced by King County in March, involves the preservation of the existing Salvation Army shelter in SODO and improvements on its current 270-person capacity to add accommodations for 150 people in the form of micro-modular units, or tiny homes.
The construction of the expanded shelter is part of the initial phase of the county’s goal to house 500 homeless people in the city. The project will utilize funding from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
Revisions of the SODO shelter plans will be conducted during a community planning session on Sept. 28.
Featured Image via KING 5