#seahomeless — ‘Two or three here, 20 there,’ the city’s march to 500 beds includes Hill, CD

A plan to increase Seattle’s shelter capacity by 500 beds is playing out around Capitol Hill and the Central District.

On May 30, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced a plan to increase shelter space for people experiencing homelessness by 500 beds within 90 days. The plan, called the Path to 500, uses a multi-pronged approach, including increasing the space at City Hall, constructing tiny home villages, and adding funding for shelter space that had been set to close at the end of May, among other strategies.

The plan is funded, for now, by the proceeds of a $6.3 million sale of city-owned property in South Lake Union. The Seattle Times reported that Durkan plans to find other funding sources to maintain the beds going forward.

The plan is playing out in small ways all across the city, said Meg Olberding, spokesperson for the city’s Human Services Department. She said the city has been working with providers to find ways they can add extra beds. ‘Whatever you can squeeze in,” she said. “Two or three here, 20 there.”

Some of those beds are finding their way to our area of the city including additions at places like 19th Ave’s Peace for the Streets, by Kids from the Streets, and E Madison’s Bailey-Boushay House.

Peace for the Streets, by Kids from the Streets, a group on 19th Ave that provides shelter and other services to young adults will expand its shelter services from 20 beds to 25.

The city approached them, explained Heidi Jacobsen-Watts, chair of the group’s board, and asked if they might add some space. The group already had a contract with the city for shelter and day services, so this was expanding on the existing relationship.

The extra beds will be used, Jacobsen-Watts said. The shelter is often full, excepting some seasonal dips around the summer and the holidays.

Jacobsen-Watts said there was already a large room that had been used as a church and could be converted into shelter space. For sanitary reasons, the room had to have its carpeting removed, and the city picked up the bill for that, Jacobsen-Watts said.

They were required to add in some smoke alarms and additional lighting to get the space up to code.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” she said.

A burned out camper had been somebody’s home on 15th Ave

Getting the facilities up to snuff isn’t too much of a problem. Though Jacobsen-Watts noted that in the longer-term, adding extra beds could lead to adding extra staff to keep staff-to-client ratios in balance.

Bailey Boushay House, at the intersection of Madison Street and Martin Luther King Jr. way will also be adding shelter beds.

Brian Knowles, executive director of Bailey-Boushay House, explained the beds there will be an outgrowth of their existing mission. Bailey Boushay opened 26 years ago to help serve people with AIDS, particularly at the end of their lives. As AIDS treatments evolved, so did their mission.

Now, while they still serve people with AIDS, they usually focus on people with AIDS who also have chemical dependency, are mentally ill, are homeless, or some combination of those factors.

Knowles said about five years ago, the group noticed that the percentage of their roughly 400 clients who were homeless spiked from about 20 percent to closer to 50 percent. That number now varies from roughly to a third to a half of their clients.

They have focused mainly on outpatient services, between 6:30 AM and 4 PM. Then a couple years ago, Knowles found that many clients would simply stay in the neighborhood, within a couple blocks of the facility, sleeping in people’s yards, garages and doorways.

Last year, Bailey-Boushay applied for a grant to add shelter facilities, though they did not receive it, Knowles said. But once the mayor announced her path to 500 program, the city approached them about adding some shelter space after all.

The facility is going through some renovations that will allow them to make a daily transition from day operation to night operations – swapping tables and chairs for cots and privacy shields and then back again. Knowles hopes they will open with 50 beds in November.

“This will actually become a 24-hour facility,” he said.

First, they have to figure out the logistics of how to transform space between uses every day, and hire and train staff. Then will come some very hard decisions about which of their clients will get to stay there each night. Ideally, those who do stay will then be able to move on to a more permanent housing situation.

Transitioning people into permanent housing is one of Durkan’s goals for shelter programs. She’s said it’s one of the factors the city will use in measuring the efficacy of various shelters and will help decide which groups will continue to receive funding.

Knowles explained that Bailey Boushay will help administer a rental assistance program which could help move about 40 people into permanent housing. Additionally, they’ll have counselors for things like chemical dependency and also just helping their clients learn how to live in a community.

“The goal is that shelter space is a transitionary space,” Knowles said.


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11 thoughts on “#seahomeless — ‘Two or three here, 20 there,’ the city’s march to 500 beds includes Hill, CD

  1. Homeless people often cite various reasons why they don’t want to take advantage of shelter space, so I’m not so sure adding additional beds in overnight shelters is going to have much of an impact. The emphasis needs to be on providing places where there are effective case-management services available, to provide an avenue to addiction and mental health treatment, and to get them into transitional and permanent housing. Otherwise, the City is just perpetuating what hasn’t helped in the past.

  2. I work in a shelter and there are a lot of mixed feelings around here about the mayor’s plans (and I can’t speak for any organization – just myself). Going to what you said, you’re right, there is a massive shortage in the city of Seattle of qualified case managers and social workers. It’s one part just that massive population boom and mostly tech workers moving here (no, this isn’t an anti-Amazon rant, just stating) – the social worker population hasn’t kept up. Another part is, damn, the pay rate is ridiculous. Just….sad. No one does what they do for the money but it’s hard to do the work, with the unreliable hours, the physical and emotional toll and all that when I know so many co-workers who can’t cover their bills. One problem is that a lot of these city grants, foundation grants, etc don’t cover salaries and building maintenance. So the pipes burst in the winter, and there’s no way in hell we’re gonna let people shower in cold water and get sick, so we put what little money we have toward that. Then the city wants reports and all these new programs and projects from people who’ve never set foot in a shelter and there just isn’t the money to hire someone to do it. It’s chaotic to say the least. BUT! BUT! The mental health organizations/therapists and addiction specialists out there working with this population in Seattle are fucking amazing. Truly. They blow my mind. You may not see them but they work so so so hard and have amazing results. There just needs to be more of them! Sorry for going on and on. I love my job but wishes city officials would talk to people who work directly with people, not just PR people and CEOs.

  3. There need to be shelter beds that are safe for transgender people. The city has not reached out to partner with Ingersoll Gender Center or Gender Justice League to fund this in any way. Transgender people disproportionally face violence and employment discrimination, among other challenges.

  4. Instead of selling the City owned land in SLU, why doesn’t the City just build affordable housing? I know there is an immediate need and it’s a lot more complicated than “just build affordable housing,” but if the City keeps choosing short-term solutions, the problem is just going to get worse.

  5. Seattle is spending massive amounts of money enabling drug addicts and the problem just gets worse.

    According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, “The Puget Sound area spends more than $1.06 billion per year addressing and responding to the homelessness crisis.”

    Too many local liberals are still breathing the ether and think more money is going to help. They have the same mentality as with our transit woes- just mindlessly throw money at the problem and pretend that wasting billions is going to help without giving serious consideration to how spending is prioritized.

    We also need basic law and order for the vagrant addicts that are increasingly emboldened and exhibiting anti-social behavior like screaming, threatening people, committing property crime, defecating and urinating in streets, sleeping on streets, selling and using heroin and meth in public, leaving syringes in public places, raping, stabbing, assaulting, etc.

    • Couldn’t agree with you more, Paul.

      Kyle, that’s not helpful. We’ve been throwing money at this for a long time without any accountability, and people are fed up.

    • So Paul, what’s your solution? Throw all the homeless in jail? That both costs money AND is unconstitutional.

      We all know the solution is accessible housing with in-patient mental and addiction services, but the opposition takes over any discussions by acting like toddlers, screaming and crapping themselves. So we keep spending gobs of money to poorly mitigate a problem.

      And your last paragraph is a sensationalist claim with no factual basis and you sound like a certain leader of Safe Seattle, who is a borderline sociopath. Not to say those things never happen, but not even close to the magnitude that you seem to think it happens.

      Per standard, you have no solution, but a lot of criticism and sensationalist claims with no factual basis. Until you provide a solution or some facts, you’re nothing but a troll and should get treated as such.

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