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Tukwila spends $215,000 on large tent for asylees at local encampment

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(The Center Square) – The City of Tukwila is using $215,000 in funds to provide asylees at a local encampment with a 3,030-square-foot heated tent for 180 days.

More than 600 asylees have passed through an encampment site at the Riverton Park United Methodist Church since the start of 2023. According to Tukwila, the encampment site peaked at over 400 residents in November 2023.

Current estimates place the number of families and individuals at the encampment at 240. The heated tent can accommodate up to 100 people.

Tukwila Communications Consultant Brad Harwood told The Center Square in an email that the funds come from the general government budget.

Out of the $215,000, the initial set up and first 28 days of operation of the large tent will cost the city $42,000. Monthly costs will be $25,000, and the last 28 days and demobilization of the tent will cost $37,000.

The costs associated with fuel, privacy screens, and cots and mattresses have yet to be computed.

“The large centralized tent provided by the city is a temporary measure – another band-aid solution – aimed at assisting asylees who are coming to our community looking for help,” Tukwila Mayor Tom McLeod said in a news release. “We’re trying to do the best we can with the limited resources available to us as a small city.”

McLeod added that the state and federal governments need to do more because the “ongoing humanitarian crisis isn’t going away.”

Earlier this week, King County 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 is dedicated to providing temporary housing, food, support and legal services to more than 70 refugee families.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee included $5 million for the state’s Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance and $3 million for a grant program to help Washington counties support asylees and refugees as part of his supplemental budget proposal.

The state Senate has also provided $5 million for housing support for the Tukwila encampment.

The state legislature is anticipated to pass a final budget next week, and any funding to aid in the humanitarian crisis would be available no later than July 1, 2024. King County’s funding to temporarily shelter asylees is intended to last through June.