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Seattle homeless ‘navigation center’ delayed

Participants in San Francisco’s navigation center pilot program

When Seattle Mayor Ed Murray first announced plans for the city’s 24-hour homeless Navigation Center in June, the goal was to launch the center by the end of the year. That 2016 goal will be missed.

Human Services director Catherine Lester responded to CHS about the delay with an email statement:

The City has secured providers for the Navigation Center and is actively working to secure a facility. Should the process of preparing the facility delay its opening, we will work with (the Downtown Emergency Service Center) and Operation Sack Lunch to begin providing services in the interim.

“Identifying a site has taken longer than we had originally considered,” Jason Johnson, division director of the Human Services department told a committee meeting with City Council members before the Christmas holiday.

He said sites under consideration should be announced “fairly soon,” and a new timeline will be issued when a site has been identified.

Johnson said DESC with its rapid rehousing program, case management, and housing navigation services was selected because it is doing similar work and fits the model the city is working toward.

The dormitory-style center with showers, bathrooms, laundry, dining and storage will be open 24 hours daily and will allow people to come as they are with their pets, partners and possessions. It will be able to provide services to 75 people at one time.

The center is intended to be a transitionary place where caseworkers will be helping people secure stable housing.

“The entire time they’re there, we’re working on their exit,” Johnson said during the meeting.

The center was created through an executive order issued in June by Murray. In his executive order, Murray reaffirmed a commitment to fighting homelessness, citing the state of emergency Seattle declared with respect to homelessness in 2015 and the fact that as of the last count, almost 3,000 people in the city are unsheltered. Murray charged the Human Services Department with evaluating San Francisco’s navigation center model and tailoring it to the needs of Seattle within two months.

The funding for the center will come from two places: $600,000 was obtained from the state capital budget, and Seattle has matched that with another $600,000 from the portion of the city budget earmarked for homelessness services. The city also plans to establish a fund to collect private donations for the center

According to a report on San Francisco’s navigation center done in May of 2016, the annual cost per bed at the center was $36,682, 399 people had been served by the center in the past year and of those 399, 268 had been moved into traditional housing and 128 had been moved into supportive housing.

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