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News / Northwest

Anonymous donor offers $50,000 to get asylum-seekers shelter

By Anna Patrick, The Seattle Times
Published: April 4, 2024, 7:42am

SEATTLE — More than 200 asylum-seekers, including families with children, slept in tents outside Seattle’s Garfield Community Center Tuesday night. But the next day, an anonymous donor came forward and offered $50,000 to get them back into a hotel.

The group — which includes migrants from Venezuela, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo and more — slept on the tennis courts outside the Seattle community center after running out of money to stay in the Kent Quality Inn and in private rentals across the county.

The asylum-seekers at the community center are part of an even larger group of people who have come to King County in recent months, including hundreds who have been staying at Riverton Park United Methodist Church in Tukwila. They aren’t able to legally work and earn money to pay for housing while they wait for work permits.

Members of the group who had been staying at the Kent hotel and in private rentals attended King County’s Health and Human Services Committee meeting Tuesday morning, asking county leaders to help them find additional aid to ensure they can remain in shelter. But as of Tuesday evening, nothing had materialized, leaving the group to set up tents and sleep outside.

“We found ourselves in this situation as you can see,” said Adriana Medina, through an interpreter, standing in front of fenced-in tennis courts that held dozens of blue and orange and red tents. “Which is not a good situation.”

Medina is a leader of Comunidad Sin Fronteras, which advocates for more government and private support to help asylum-seekers stay indoors.

The group, along with other mutual aid groups and groups formed by asylum-seekers, held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to draw more attention to their need for additional support.

King County Councilmember Sarah Perry confirmed the investment from the anonymous donor Wednesday afternoon and said she worked with the Kent Quality Inn to make the deal.

Starting in January, the Kent Quality Inn, managed by Eli Min, has served as shelter for hundreds of migrants. For the last month, this group had received two different donations from faith organizations to cover the cost of one month’s stay at the hotel.

Paying for 61 rooms at the cost of $70 a night, Min said this money will cover the cost of 11 nights.

According to community organizer Rosario Lopez, who has been working with asylum-seekers, everyone now has a place to stay.

Some of those people had to move out of Airbnbs after the Riverton Park United Methodist Church, which had been covering the costs, ran out of money for their stays.

Garcia Kibala, originally from Angola, said he was living in one of them.

“It was really, really good,” he said through an interpreter of his stay in an Airbnb.

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