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King County offers $1M in grants to help Tukwila refugees secure shelter

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(The Center Square) – King County Executive Dow Constantine has announced $1 million in grant funding for south King County nonprofits to help with the large number of refugee families facing homelessness.

The one-time funding would be dedicated to providing temporary housing, food, support and legal services to more than 70 refugee families.

The funding is to be invested as part of a $5 million funding opportunity for cities in south King County to assist in local homelessness response efforts.

King County previously approved $3 million to the Housing and Community Development fund to assist the refugees on an interim basis. The county contracted with Thrive International to move refugees into hotel rooms. According to the county, as of Feb. 1, all 100 rooms are occupied and more than 350 people have a temporary place to stay through June.

In October 2023, Tukwila Mayor Allan Ekberg issued a state of emergency regarding a large encampment of asylum seekers at the Riverton Park United Methodist Church. Since then, the number of encampment residents jumped to more than 500 asylees passing through the encampment site.

Earlier this year, more than 70 refugee families from the Tukwila encampment faced homelessness as their stay at a hotel in Kent was coming to an end. The City of Seattle ultimately allocated over $200,000 from the general budget to the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs to extend the families’ stay at the hotel.

“While this additional $1 million in funding will help in the near term, the full-scale response and infrastructure needed for this ongoing situation requires additional federal leadership and partnership with the state,” Constantine said in a news release. “The number of migrants who cross the border is only increasing, and this puts a significant strain on local resources.”

Constantine added that the county’s efforts are ultimately unsustainable, but officials remain committed to interim support through June when the state can step in.

Most of the encampment residents are asylum seekers from Venezuela, Angola and Congo, fleeing violence and conflict in their homelands.

Request for proposals for the $1 million in grant funding is open now through March 12. Grant recipients are anticipated to be notified by the end of March.