Everett City Councilmember Ben Zarlingo Weighs In On Church Shelter Issue

April 10, 2023

Everett Government

We received the following email this morning (4/10) from Ben Zarlingo, who is the Councilmember for District 7 on the Everett, Washington City Council. Below are his comments on the situation with the proposed shelter at Hope Church…

ZarlingoIn your email you asked more than “a couple of quick questions…” and I’m afraid that delayed my initial response. I needed to look back through my schedule and find notes and refresh my memory. I’ll answer to the best of my recollection, but don’t think I have anything different to add to what’s already known. Also, I have been cautious about wading in on this, looking to see if there was anything I could contribute, rather than adding to the temperature of the situation. I have been going over all the email comments to Council and media reports to stay aware of developments. I’m trying to better understand both the housing/services needs and the community response and concerns.

As you know, a site for a larger shelter of a different type in my district has been purchased by Snohomish County, and I’ve been spending time understanding the implications of that. Last week and this weekend I have been looking into congregate and non-congregate shelters and specifically the long-term experience of Salt Lake City. In the past they’ve been lauded for the effectiveness of their approaches to homelessness but I’m finding the situation is much less rosy and more complex. I’m looking there and elsewhere for lessons for Everett and Snohomish County.

One thing I’ve noticed is that while there is reasonable agreement on the nature of congregate emergency shelters, other terms are used much more variably and it can be a barrier to productive discussions. Terms such as “housing first” and “housing plus” and “treatment first” are not consistently interpreted by our community members. The implications of management plans, on-site services, codes of conduct and neighborhood impact are significant for facility operators, residents, and the larger community.

Now to more focused answers to your questions:

I was contacted in late February about a County briefing on the Hope Church property and preliminary planning. I had a virtual briefing on March 3rd with County representatives. They began with a review of the existing shelters and the management by the Salvation Army and the Everett Gospel Mission. They described the problems with the current UCC site.

They gave an overview of the Hope Church site and adjacent/connected properties and explained it would not require a land use change. They explained the practicalities of access control and the focus on services for shelter residents only. They described planned services as similar to what is currently provided at UCC, serving (initially at least) the same number of people.

They mentioned door-to-door community outreach but I don’t think they provided specifics. Like you, I’ve heard concerns about the extent of that outreach so far. I was not advised of the specific public meetings or invited to attend, and do not recall any subsequent invitations.

I believe they described fencing and a likely main entrance on Evergreen way. Though Evergreen Way is wide and busy, this made sense to me because this is the transit and main vehicle access for the site. It would also seem to facilitate site access control, and focus most access away from the adjacent neighborhood.

I asked a bit more about management plans, codes of conduct, and the population that would be served. At this early stage there weren’t many specifics for them to share.

I don’t suppose that any of this is new or different from what you’ve already heard, but perhaps confirmation is helpful. It’s important that the City and County be effective partners, but these issues are large, complex and fraught. I’m trying to understand them as well as I can, and learn from the experience of other communities both nearby and in other states.

Thanks and best regards,


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