‘We don’t have the ability’: Refugees plea to Seattle for immediate shelter

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(The Center Square) – Facing homelessness, around 70 refugee families formerly living in the Tukwila encampment sought immediate help from the Seattle City, but received none.

The refugees stem from countries including Venezuela, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Refugees told The Center Square that they were taken to the Quality Inn located in Kent due to the health risks for pregnant women and children at the Riverton Park United Methodist Church encampment.

The asylum seekers were staying at the hotel from Jan. 10 through Jan. 30. Facing eviction from the hotel, the refugees called on the Seattle City Council to utilize immediate emergency funds for temporary housing costs, as well as allocate funds for permanent shelter, attorney fees, and help obtaining work permits.

Seattle City Councilmember Cathy Moore said that the city can’t simply write a check to pay for short-term housing or open up shelters, but said her office has reached out to the Seattle Mayor and King County Executive Offices.

“We don’t have the ability to address this issue – this is an issue that the [King County Regional Homelessness Authority] was created to address and I don’t know where they are at,” Moore said in the city council meeting on Jan. 30.

Port of Seattle Commissioner and Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Director Hamdi Mohamed explained to the asylum seekers that her office usually looks to the federal government for direction on migrant issues, but is not seeing it lately.

“We don’t respond to housing, that’s not our area of expertise – we’re a team of about 13 people with a budget of around $5 million,” Mohamed said.

Last December, the King County Council approved $3 million towards connecting asylum seekers at the encampment in Tukwila to 100 hotel rooms. At the time, the site had over 300 people, including around 100 children.

Immediately following the city council meeting, those in attendance chanted “shame” at the councilmembers exiting chambers. The 70 refugee family families stayed at city hall through 7 p.m.

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