(The Center Square) – Despite issuing a state of emergency to address a large encampment of asylum seekers in Tukwila, the number of asylees has continued to increase.
Tukwila Mayor Allan Ekberg originally issued a state of emergency last month when the original estimate of the number of asylum seekers living at the Riverton Park United Methodist Church was more than 200 people.
However, a recent update from the city estimates that more than 500 asylees have passed through the encampment site. As of November 19, the site has 338 people on site, according to Tukwila Acting Deputy City Administrator Pete Mayer.
Out of the 338 asylees at the Riverton Park United Methodist Church encampment, 241 were adults and 97 were children. Mayer noted at Monday’s Tukwila City Council meeting that the site is dynamic as people come and go from the encampment.
Most of the residents are immigrants from Venezuela, Angola and Congo, fleeing violence and conflict in their homeland, according to the update.
During the update presented to the Tukwila City Council, Mayer noted that 24 people from the encampment were moved into transitional housing from the church. However, there will be an additional 30 people returning to the church by Dec. 1. These are people who were temporarily transitioned to Highline United Methodist Church in the City of Burien.
“Even with the numbers of individuals still at the site, the church and the staff that are helping them have done an outstanding job of continuing to funnel families and people onto better housing situations – it’s just the flow [of asylees] itself is either equal to or greater than the flow going out,” Tukwila Deputy Police Chief Eric Drever said at the city council meeting.
Tukwila City Councilmember Kate Kruller said she saw people at the church selling donated goods out of the trunks of their vehicles. Kruller asked Drever if there is some accountability for whether or not donated items from residents of the encampment go on the open market.
Drever responded that it’s not a crime to take something given to you and sell it for profit. However, he added that the city is considering the accusations of reselling donated items in order to minimize the impact to asylees truly in need of the donated items.