King County announced this week that it has retained service provider Thrive International to connect residents at the Riverton Park United Methodist Church encampment with up to 100 hotel rooms, prioritizing the most vulnerable at the site, including families with small children or those who are pregnant.

King County Council approved $3 million in funding for the project, the first designated resource to assist people on an interim basis, with longer-term funding and solutions to be determined through a partnership with the State of Washington and the City of Tukwila.

Most of the residents are asylum-seekers from Venezuela, Angola, and Congo, fleeing violence and conflict in their homeland. In October, the City of Tukwila declared a state of emergency resulting from the hundreds of asylum seekers and refugees located at the church. The number of asylees onsite has recently ballooned to 400, raising significant health and public safety concerns. Since then, King County and community partners have provided donations and resources, and Public Health – Seattle & King County has provided on-site health assessment and connections to health care.

“On behalf of our community I want to thank King County for their partnership and coming through with much needed funding to help transition a significant number of asylees at the Riverton Park encampment to safer housing,” said Tukwila Mayor Allan Ekberg. “This is an unprecedented situation that requires a coordinated regional approach. With today’s funding news, we’re hopeful that we can continue to work together to develop a viable plan to assist the asylees.”

Throughout the year, Public Health – Seattle & King County’s Health Care for the Homeless (HCHN) Mobile Medical Van assisted the asylees at the church, initially due to scheduled visits to an adjacent tiny home village on the premises. Recently, Public Health provided support services, including assessments of the conditions and needs by the HCHN and Environmental Health teams. The Mobile Medical Van has conducted numerous visits to the church, providing medical assistance to families and children in need and disseminating information on hygiene best practices.

“I’m grateful for the King County Council for establishing this initial relief package, while the partnership between King County, the State of Washington, and the City of Tukwila continues to identify more resources to connect people with safe places to stay,” said Executive Dow Constantine. “Working with community-based organizations, this relief will help house some of the most vulnerable people at the site, and help provide some stability and a step forward toward a long-term solution.”

“This is a temporary but critical step to make sure those most at risk can stay warm, housed, and healthy this winter while government partners at all levels work together toward a more complete solution,” said King County Councilmember Joe McDermott. “The Tukwila and Riverton Park United Methodist Church communities have been doing incredible work for people who have come here to seek asylum and refuge over the past year, and I’m proud to work with Executive Constantine and our valued partnership with the State of Washington in this effort moving forward.”

HCHN has contributed medical and other supplies to meet needs of people around the church. Public Health has also provided additional health education and safety resources, organized a vaccine clinic for children on the site, and helped explore acquiring a hygiene trailer.