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First Hill’s Harborview Hall to become King County COVID-19 ‘isolation and recovery center’

Saved from the wrecking ball and upgraded and transformed into a home for shelter and homelessness services, 9th Ave’s Harborview Hall will begin a new life this week in the region’s fight against COVID-19.

King County announced Saturday that the facility will be swung into action as a key component in the area’s hopes of getting through the outbreak: an isolation and recovery center for the region’s homeless and under sheltered patients:

Harborview Hall, which is across the street from Harborview Medical Center, will be repurposed to serve as a recovery site primarily for people who do not have a home to rest and recover and who may have other health needs requiring a level of monitoring. This location will offer a very vulnerable population a safe place to recover, with onsite clinical support provided by Harborview Medical Center staff. This may include people who are awaiting the result of their COVID-19 test result or a COVID-19 patient who has mild symptoms and doesn’t require hospitalization.

“As we press every available county-owned property into the fight against this outbreak, we will convert our Harborview Hall enhanced shelter into a facility for COVID-19 isolation and recovery, especially for those without permanent housing,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in the announcement on the effort.

The repurposing of the Hall follows the November opening of a 24-hour, seven day a week enhanced shelter facility in the building with beds, a dining area, showers and bathrooms, laundry, and staffing including counselors and services operated by the Salvation Army under a $2.2 million contract.

The art deco-era building had been lined up for demolition with First Hill community representatives mounting a rarity for a neighborhood campaign — pushing for the removal of the historic building to make way for a possible park as the county mulled plans for preserving the building.

To make way for the new COVID-19 center, the Salvation Army shelter will now be moved to the former county records building at 1215 E Fir that was made available by the Seattle Housing Authority to aid in the COVID emergency response effort, according to the county announcement.

The county’s siting of other isolation and recovery facilities in Kent and White Center has been met with criticism over equity issues and unsuccessful attempts to stop the projects in court.

With neighboring Harborview Medical Center’s emergency and hospital services already on the front lines of the region’s battle with COVID-19, recovery sites “for people experiencing homelessness” is “an essential step in our community response,” the county announcement reads.


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