A major change to help those experiencing homelessness is coming to Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace. Snohomish County plans to buy the America’s Best Value Inn on Highway 99 in Edmonds, which will provide 55 units of what’s called “bridge housing.”
Assuming approval by the Snohomish County Council, the purchase will mark the first time this type of housing will be available in South Snohomish County.
Bridge housing is designed to provide immediate shelter in a stable environment, with 24/7 support services. It is considered a first step toward permanent housing and comes with medical and mental health help, job services and other immediate needs. Kelsey Nyland, with the county’s office of recovery and resilience, said that providers in South County “have been asking for this for a long time; the need is vast across the county.”
“The county’s purchase of the America’s Best Value Inn is a natural fit,” said Shannon Burley, who oversees the City of Edmonds human services division. The city and other nonprofits already use vouchers to send people to the Best Value Inn for a few nights of emergency shelter. Burley thinks that “through partnerships with the county and nonprofit service providers, individuals will receive much needed wraparound care and services. This is a great addition for South Snohomish County.”
In the last week, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers has announced three new initiatives to dramatically increase temporary housing and health services for the homeless. The county is creating 36 new shelter and behavioral health units; announced the purchase of Everett’s Days Inn, providing 74 housing units; and now the Best Value Inn. That means 165 new housing units just this year – a 26% increase in the ability to shelter people.
The county is buying the Best Value Inn — located at 22127 Highway 99 — with $9.1 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) pandemic recovery money. “We can provide safer places for vulnerable residents, create stability to support communities’ overall health and wellbeing,” Somers said.
The Snohomish County Council is expected to confirm the purchase of both the Everett and Edmonds locations at its Wednesday meeting. It will be early fall before the deal closes, and county crews will decide if repairs or renovations are needed. The Edmonds property should be ready to accept applicants early next year.
The Edmonds City Council does not have to vote on the purchase; county approval is all that is needed.
The county will contract with local mental and physical health professionals to staff the Best Value Inn 24/7. Only single adults or adult couples — no children — will be housed in both of the county properties. The housing will accept those who are going through substance abuse treatment. The nonprofits supervising the units will vet applicants.
Regarding security for the motels, Nyland said that it is “really crucial to make sure we have staff available at the facility 24/7.” She said the county had not yet made decisions about providing on-site security but added that “when there is 24/7 (staffing) the need for emergency services really decreases.”
Verdant Health Superintendent Lisa Edwards praised the county plan: “This project will help ensure unhoused South County community members can access essential services that support wellness and guide them towards permanent housing,” she said.
Brad Smith, chief operating officer for Volunteers of America, Western Washington, said: “This is a fantastic development and comes at a time when the challenges facing our community have never been higher. Housing stability will always be the first step towards self-sufficiency, and this will provide that path forward.”
Compass Health President Tom Sebastian agreed: “A key component of our work involves helping community members access housing on their paths to recovery, and we applaud Snohomish County for making it a priority to increase crucial housing resources in our area,” he said.
You can find additional information on the county’s recovery plans at www.snohomishcountywa.gov/recovery.
— By Bob Throndsen