Moving stories from the King County Refugee Resettlement Hotel program

A message from DCHS Director, Leo Flor on the King County Refugee Resettlement Hotel program:  

“When he entered their private room and saw they had a small kitchen with a two-burner stove and a sink that spit out clear water, he called his mom in Afghanistan. “We have everything in here,” he [Ahmad] told her.”  

The Seattle Times, recently published an article, “A King County refugee program turned 2 hotels into communities of support” on the efforts of the DCHS team, partnerships with neighboring jurisdictions, state partners, and the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Together, this program impacted the lives of 793 people, including Ahmad.  

This program’s success is in large part due to fantastic leadership by Magan Cromar, Developmental Disabilities and Early Childhood Supports (DDECS) Division Director, who for more than a year was the operations manager of the Refugee Resettlement Hotel program. Under her leadership, she helped grow a team of leaders—many of whom had been guests at the hotel.  

“This beautiful project was an incredible team effort,” said Magan Cromar, DDECS Director. “The County could not answer all the questions or ease the pain of leaving one’s home, but we could provide a safe place to start building a new home.” 

The big and small efforts from the team to help ease the transition for guests made a world of difference. Fixing bikes and repairing toys for the kids in the building was a common occurrence, and the team made sure hotel staff were available 24/7 to help get people urgent medical care, medicine for their kids, directions to a park, and help applying for jobs or interpretation support with phone calls. 

This team went above and beyond, and I am proud of the vast partnerships to make the resettlement process a smooth one.  

The State and County invested in this year-long program, and part of the investment was temporary housing at the Federal Way and Redmond Health Through Housing buildings. Both buildings were repurposed in the short-term for arriving Afghan refugees, underscoring the importance of flexible housing. 

I want to give a special thanks to the IRC, the Washington Department of Social and Health Services’ Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance, Mayor Ferrell and the City of Federal Way, and Mayor Birney and the City of Redmond whose partnerships made it possible for King County to continue offering a place for people to stay.    

We make a difference when we work together and seek responsibility to help solve problems.  I couldn’t be more proud to work with leaders like Magan, Executive Constantine, the King County Council, Mayor Birney, Mayor Ferrell, State partners, and the IRC, all of whom collaborated and stepped up to make this program available.