(The Center Square) - Several years after King County purchased a former Red Lion Hotel in Federal Way, with plans for wrap-around services for the homeless, the building remains empty, potentially costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

It has been more than three years since King County launched its Health Through Housing Initiative, which was expected to address the crisis. The program received nearly $9 million from the state to fund the rehabilitation, according to the Kent Reporter.

Last week, members of the Federal Way community packed a council meeting in Federal Way for an update on the project, and other projects granted funds by the Washington State Department of Commerce to address the homelessness crisis.

The March 19 meeting brought updates on two hotels in Federal Way that are being transformed into resources to reduce homelessness.

They focused on the property at 1400 S. 320th St. that will be managed by the Urban League through the King County Health Through Housing Initiative.

Councilmember Hoang Tran said as a former refugee person, “I am grateful for this service that you provide to the community … I can reassure you that we are no threat to the community or to you,” Tran said.

Local social worker Aaron Walsh also shared support for the project, which county officials assure will have security for concerned neighbors.

“It breaks my heart when I encounter people who are ready to make changes, but due to the lack of stable housing, it is sometimes almost impossible to access services,” he said.

Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell spoke with The Center Square about the projects.

“The nice thing is it’s (the project on 320th) surrounded by an iron gate and it will be staffed by personnel and one of the things we did as a council is to require licensing and a requirement that any organization that operates one of these has to comply with licensing," Ferrell said. “No criminal law violations for tenants, and not allowing things to deteriorate is key, so if we get into a situation where that is happening, we can pull the license.

“These people are going to be signing leases and when they shut the door, they will have privacy and it will be their apartment and just like anyone else they will have privacy with nobody barging in, but we are not going to allow criminal behavior going on.”

The meeting last week also covered an update on the timeline for the former Red Lion property at 1688 S. 348th Street.

King County purchased the property years ago but did not disclose for a long while that plans were delayed after meth contamination was deemed to be much worse than initially believed.

Ferrell says King County is finally making progress on the building.

“The county is telling us that by next Winter they should have that open, which is really important because it’s an emergency shelter to get people out of the cold where it’s a life-saving situation,” he said.

Federal Way is currently the 9th largest city in the state of Washington with a population of more than 101,000 people.

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