A Tacoma hotel is one step closer to housing people experiencing homelessness.
After months of planning, the Seattle-based Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) officially purchased the Comfort Inn at 8620 S. Hosmer St. in Tacoma on Friday for a total of $8.8 million.
The 94-bed, three-story hotel was purchased with help from the City of Tacoma, Pierce County and the City of Lakewood.
In its first two years of ownership, LIHI plans to use the hotel as a shelter for 120 men, women and couples, including pets.
“We are grateful to Pierce County and the cities of Tacoma and Lakewood for their foresight and compassion to help our unhoused neighbors. We have the opportunity during the pandemic to purchase a building to provide 120 people with a safe, warm place to get out of the cold and improve their lives this winter,” LIHI executive director Sharon Lee said in a press release Friday.
Lee told The News Tribune she received the keys Friday. She hoped to get the property sooner, but people had still been checking out of the hotel Friday morning.
Each hotel unit has a refrigerator, microwave, TV, WiFi, closet, private bath and air conditioning. The building has sprinklers, an elevator, laundry room, double-paned windows, security cameras and parking. The hotel, built in 2000, is in great condition, she said.
“We’re very happy,” Lee said. “We looked at other hotels that were very old — some of them were not in great shape.”
There’s some refurbishing to do before people start moving in, Lee said, but the goal is to have people in their rooms by the start of December. LIHI will identify people to stay in the shelter by working with Lakewood, Tacoma’s Homeless Outreach Team and members of the Tacoma-Pierce County Coalition to End Homelessness.
People will be eligible to stay at the site for three to six months, and staff will be on site 24-hours a day, seven days a week. On-site case managers will help residents with housing and employment applications, including assisting them obtain their identification cards and other documentation, LIHI said.
“We are pleased to help create a safe, warm place for our residents who need it,” said Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier in a press release Friday. “Partnering with LIHI and other cities allows us to bring together the resources needed to make this possible and offers a model for the future.”
After two years of operating the shelter, LIHI plans to transform the hotel into permanent supportive housing, which will require additional funding from the state. The City of Tacoma and Pierce County have each provided $5 million toward the project, and the City of Lakewood provided $1 million. The funds went toward purchasing the hotel but will also help in its transformation down the road.
“Approaching homelessness from a regional perspective gives us access to expanded and innovative approaches like this one,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards in a press release. “I hope this will be the first of many partnerships to address this important issue.”
“The opportunity to invest in an emergency shelter accessible to people from Lakewood as well as Tacoma and Pierce County will help all of our communities,” added Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson. “This is a chance to maximize the effectiveness of American Rescue Plan funds and help those most in need as quickly as possible.”
The hotel purchase is part of a larger effort by Pierce County and neighboring cities to expand shelter availability for people experiencing homelessness. Historically, Tacoma has provided the majority of shelter beds across the county.
As of Aug. 17, Pierce County reported there are 998 shelter beds across the county, 787 of which are located in Tacoma, The News Tribune’s Josephine Peterson reported in October. The county said 109 shelter beds are in confidential locations for safety reasons, Puyallup has 74 shelter beds, Orting has 20 tiny homes for veterans experiencing homelessness and Lakewood has eight beds for families. According to an August presentation to the Pierce County Council, more than 2,200 people are unhoused in Pierce County without access to year-round shelter beds.
LIHI’s also has purchased hotels to use as shelters in Seattle. This would be the first in Tacoma. LIHI also operates three tiny home village shelters in Tacoma: one at 6th Avenue and Orchard Street, one at South 69th Street and Proctor Street, and one at 2027 E. Wright Ave.