On December 8, 2022, King County Deputy Executive April Putney joined the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), the International Rescue Committee (IRC), King County Department of Community and Human Services, and the City of Redmond to mark the successful completion of a shared program to support refugee resettlement in western Washington. Together, the program partners welcomed nearly 800 new neighbors coming to the region.
Beginning in September 2021, King County made a commitment to support newly arriving Afghan refugees, including the use of a recently purchased ‘Health Through Housing’ hotel in Federal Way as temporary housing, and a $500,000 investment for language support and community grants to aid in the resettlement process.
Partnering with the DSHS Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance, the IRC, and community partners, King County began accepting referrals and in October of 2021 welcomed 130 refugees in Federal Way. Then in April, thanks to a partnership with the City of Redmond, the program moved operations to the former Silver Cloud Hotel, a Redmond Health Through Housing building. The Redmond site welcomed refugees from May through December.
Over the course of the past year, 791 people took part in the short-term program that offered temporary housing, support, and connection to community. Of those who arrived, 97 percent secured permanent housing thanks to the warm welcome and safe landing they received. The Silver Cloud Hotel will stop serving refugees in December 2022, and on December 8th a special closing celebration was held at the hotel for all partners to share in the success.
Refugees who arrived in King County and stayed at the two Health Through Housing buildings came through the federal resettlement program with the IRC, which provides refugee resettlement services, managing the process and supporting the search for permanent housing.
“This program took extraordinary effort from so many people and underscores the critical impact of local, state, federal, and non-profit partnerships. Together, these teams have worked tirelessly since last fall, welcoming newly arriving refugees in King County, and readily offering support,” said Executive Dow Constantine. “Our communities understand the importance of helping those in need, and this unique initiative is testament to what we can achieve when we join together to make a welcoming community where everyone can thrive.”
“Redmond is committed to building a community where all are welcome, safe, and supported. Creating a space for those who took refuge and lending support for their successful transition was an honor for our city,” said Redmond Mayor Angela Birney. “This is a great example of how strong partnerships can make positive impacts for people and communities.”
"Together we formed a unique and amazing partnership with King County and DSHS for the use of hotels in two locations. This has helped to welcome and respond to the urgent needs of hundreds of refugee arrivals in Washington state. I hope we can be an inspiration or touchstone for future endeavors and other agencies,” said Nicky Smith, Executive Director of IRC Seattle.
“Washington State Department of Social and Health Services is proud to support and invest in this unique partnership with King County and the International Rescue Committee to provide transitional housing and culturally responsive supports and programs for Afghans through the federal Operation Allies Welcome," said Wendy Long, DSHS Deputy Chief of Staff. "Today’s celebration is a reflection of the strong community of people who joined together to welcome more than 3,000 people who lost everything and needed new opportunities and resources to rebuild their lives, to thrive, and to contribute to our diverse society.”
The use of the locations in Federal Way and Redmond as temporary places to stay for refugees did not delay the Health Through Housing implementation plans. The process to transform the Redmond building into housing for those experiencing, or at risk of chronic homelessness is underway.