19th Ave homeless youth facility PSKS to close as Seattle City Hall pushes away from shelter funding

(Image: PSKS)

Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets, the mouthful of a name, year-round, overnight youth shelter on 19th Ave just off Madison must close before the end of the year.

“The Board of Directors of Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets (PSKS) has spent the past two years investigating the best possible future for our programs serving youth and young adults experiencing homelessness,” the PSKS announcement reads. “After in-depth conversations with partner service providers, the City of Seattle, and private funders, we have come to the very difficult decision that PSKS must close its doors no later than December 31.”

The Seattle Times was first to report the decision in an in-depth look at what the loss will mean for young homeless people who depend on the shelter’s 25 beds in a city cutting back on emergency shelter spending in favor of “enhanced shelters” and what city officials say will be longer term housing solutions.

“I would consider PSKS to be the canary in the coal mine,” PSKS board member and former board president Andrea Vitalich tells the Times. “Because the entire service-providing model is not sustainable.”

The decision to close the shelter comes three years after CHS reported the sale of the property by longtime owners Mount Zion Baptist Church and the few years remaining on its lease.

The PSKS building was purchased for $3.2 million by DEP Homes, which has developed several multifamily buildings around the Central District, including one at 19th and Union. There is currently no permitting activity for the address indicating a new development is imminent.

CHS reported PSKS had two years on its lease in 2018 when it made an offer to purchase the building for around $3 million which would have allowed the shelter to expand into the building’s existing apartments that were being used for storage. Even with the uncertain environment, the shelter invested in a change of a use process last summer to meet community center standards.

Mount Zion’s plans to sell the property sparked intense infighting between church officials and some parishioners. CHS previously wrote about confusion and frustration at the church over the leadership’s efforts to buoy expenses by selling off several high value properties around the Central Area.

In 2015, the city helped boost PSKS after its move from Summit near E Olive Way by funding the shelter as a year-round emergency facility. The facility was also part of Mayor Jenny Durkan’s “Path to 500” plan, an early initiative in her administration that sought to increase Seattle’s shelter capacity by 500 beds in 2018.

While it appears that PSKS will be shutting down permanently, another Capitol Hill area youth facility found good news in the mayor’s 2020 budget proposal as Durkan has proposed $500,000 earmarked for Capitol Hill’s Lambert House to help the LGBTQ+ youth nonprofit pay off money borrowed to purchase its longtime home. CHS reported last year on the queer youth nonprofit’s efforts to purchase the 15th Ave house it calls home.

Meanwhile, plans for a major homeless youth center at Pine and Broadway are reportedly moving forward in a partnership that will include Capitol Hill Housing and YouthCare on state-owned property being made available in a land deal with Seattle Central. The project is still in early planning stages and would not include emergency shelter space. Instead, officials say the project will create “an education and employment focused Opportunity Center for homeless and unstably housed young people.”

PSKS, meanwhile, has welcomed anyone aged 18 to 29 to its shelter which can sleep up to 25 every night. It also has offered a daytime drop-in center and a variety of programs. During night and day times, those staying at the shelter can use the kitchen, access a community closet, receive case management, take GED classes, or use a shower.

Founded in 1995 primarily as an advocacy group, PSKS grew into a shelter and community space, though it has struggled at times to keep the doors open. The nonprofit nearly shutdown in its previous location at Summit and Howell before the city stepped in to help it secure the the ground level of Mount Zion’s annex building.

PSKS has plans to continue to operate through  the end of the year and donations are still encouraged to help the program transition its participants into housing and services. You can learn more at psks.org.

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