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Homeless shelter may threaten Seattle’s Asian communities

A hundred people protested outside city hall the planned homeless shelter to be placed near Seattle’s International District. The plan was approved in May, but the community only recently heard about it.

Seattle’s International District is comprised of Chinatown, Little Saigon, and Japantown. The county announced its plan to expand a current Salvation Army homeless shelter to house 150 additional people.

Tanya Woo, a member of the Seattle Chinatown-International District, said to My Northwest that the lack of community input reminded her of past decisions impacting Asian neighborhoods. 

“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,” Woo said. “Our community is struggling. 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.”

She expressed that the homeless were not the problem but the drug dealers who might prey on them.

Already, according to Seattle Police Department’s Crime Dashboard, there has been a surge in crime in the area. In the first eight months of 2022, 108 cases of aggravated assault were reported in the Chinatown International District.

“Seniors are fearful at night. I remember pre-pandemic you could go out to Hing Hay Park at midnight and there would be seniors sitting there listening to Chinese opera. Now, you would never see that,” Woo told My Northwest.

A resident and business owner of 30 years said at the City Council meeting, “CID is a special community unique. 70% to 80% 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.”

There’s still hope.

According to the Daily Journal of Commerce (DJC), revisions of the shelter plans will be considered during a community planning session on Sept. 28.

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