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Homeless students may get lodging on SR 99


Rodeo Inn on Highway 99 in Lynnwood.

On Feb. 26, Edmonds City Council members and Mayor Dave Earling heard a report from Koné Consulting that included the following: Based on Department of Social and Health Services data on those receiving benefits, there are currently about 230 Edmonds residents experiencing homelessness.

The day before, the Lynnwood City Council approved a bond ordinance authorizing the spending of up to $5.1 million to purchase a motel with the idea of supporting homeless students and their families in the Edmonds School District.

That figure could include support from surrounding communities in the district.

That hotel is the 52-room Rodeo Inn, on Highway 99 in Lynnwood just north of 212th Street SW and across the street from Edmonds city limits.

“We are currently in a 60-day due diligence period to determine if the Rodeo Inn is the right fit,” said City of Lynnwood spokeswoman Julie Moore. “That period ends April 1, and council will need to approve the purchase if we choose to move forward.

“At this time, there is no formal commitment that Edmonds School District students will for sure be housed – I just want to be sure there aren’t expectations set just yet.”

The Edmonds School District supports the City of Lynnwood’s idea.

“The project proposes transforming a motel, which has a history of harboring crime and straining valuable emergency resources, into a transitional housing facility for homeless students and their families,” the district’s board of directors wrote in a letter to the district last year.

Edmonds School District has 34 schools, with about 20,000 students. The district includes Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Woodway and Brier.

“The number of families experiencing homelessness in the Edmonds School District tends to go up over the course of a school year,” district spokeswoman Kelly Franson said. “As of Feb. 20, we have 552 families who qualify for homeless services.

“That number includes students in foster care, as well as families living in shelters, at hotels, couch-surfing, living in a car or other places not meant for human habitation, and families doubled up due to economic hardship. If you subtract foster care, we are still over 500.”

If Lynnwood’s plan comes to fruition, Earling said Edmonds would decide at that point to assist.

“Last year, I put $250,000 in my budget for homeless studies,” he said.

“We would have that money available to be supportive. I’ve talked to some of our councilmembers, and they understand and agree that it is a way in which across the district we can actually show some support and some action to take steps to take care of a situation like this. And across the district, there has been shown to be some support and action, too.

“One of things I’ve been supportive of from beginning is finding transition places for students and youth. I really have a great deal of empathy for and a great interest in providing transitional help for those families looking for it.”

Earling said there is an impressive list of both government and private sector organizations interested in the project.

“I know some of them that are actively engaged, but whether they contribute or not I don't know,” he said. “But it involves a cross-section of folks from across the school district, since that's really the focus.”

One of those organizations is the nonprofit housing agency and service provider Housing Hope, whose stated goal is to “recognize that safe, decent and affordable housing is only the first step in solving poverty for struggling families.”

“We are in conversations with the City of Lynnwood and very interested in partnering with them on this project,” Housing Hope CEO Fred Safstrom said.

Housing Hope has 479 units of low-income and homeless housing in 22 housing developments throughout Snohomish County, and 301 homes that homeowners have built through a “sweat-equity” program.

To help families break the cycle of homelessness and poverty, Housing Hope works to combine affordable housing with tailored services such as life-skills training, trauma-informed child development and child care, case management and employment assistance.

“For over 31 years, Housing Hope has been breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty for families in Snohomish County and Camano Island. We see a real need in south Snohomish County, and look forward to working with the community and the city to address homelessness and poverty in the area.”

Said Earling: “If this comes to fruition, Housing Hope could be running the day-to-day operations because they have the experience in doing something like that.”

The district’s board of directors, in its letter, wrote that the project has the potential to meet several needs, including removing a blighted business from the Highway 99 corridor, providing transitional housing to students and their families, and creating a network of social services that lead families toward self-sufficiency.


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