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As facilities evolve and adapt to the COVID-19 crisis and Seattle’s homelessness priorities, the Central District welcomes two new shelters

Mary’s Place has a new place in the CD (Image: Mary's Place)

Mary’s Place has a new place in the CD (Image: Mary’s Place)

Outside the 18th and Yesler building (Image: Mary's Place)

Outside the 18th and Yesler building (Image: Mary’s Place)

The COVID-19 crisis has posed a unique challenge for homeless shelters across King County as congregate shelters, housing people in shared spaces, have seen outbreaks amongst their guests and staff, and new strategies for providing safer services to the homeless are being implemented. Two new shelters — one planning to open at the end of the month and one recently starting service — are joining the efforts to meet housing needs in the Central District.

Mary’s Place signed a two-year lease to open a new shelter on 16th and Yesler in the space formerly home to Keiro Northwest Rehabilitation & Care Center. The new shelter space is well-suited to meet social distancing guidelines and will have 46 private rooms with bathrooms inside, according to Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary’s Place.

“When COVID hit then we had to start de-intensifying our shelters [to create social distancing],” Hartman said. “We actually ended up closing three shelters and consolidating, and we knew that this building provided everything that could provide a healthy, safe place for families that was less traumatic for them.”


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The COVID-19 crisis has transformed many of the ways Mary’s Place, a non-profit organization that runs a number of shelters for homeless families, can provide service. The new shelter is funded through a grant from the City of Seattle transferred from Mary’s Place North Seattle site, and by private fundraising.

“With COVID, we’ve learned we can’t go back to the other ways we were offering shelter — that we need to provide individual spaces for families experiencing homelessness,” Hartman said.

Hartman hopes the shelter can open by the end of the month, but this is dependent on training the staff and finishing tenant improvements. The organization has opened temporary shelters in many different spaces across the county, and COVID-19 precautions will likely affect its building choices going forward.

“We’re always looking to fulfill the need in whatever part of the county needs us the most,” Hartman said. “Right now we are down in south King County where most of our families are coming from, but we also know that there’s a growing need in north King County as well.”

The new shelter will offer many services beyond temporary housing, including remote learning for children and on-site healthcare.

“We rely on volunteers a lot and volunteers have tapered off during this COVID crisis,” Hartman said. “Now we’re moving to more remote learning, we have remote legal clinics, remote tutoring, remote resume writing, and all kinds of things we’re trying to connect our guests with to make sure there isn’t a lack of services available to them.”

The Central District with still relatively affordable properties that are still close to the city center and served by adequate public transit has seen a recent group of new investments in homelessness solutions in recent months. In April, CHS reported on the opening of a new tiny home village at 22nd and Cherry.

“Shelter participants can be 18-24. All races, genders, and sexual orientations are welcome,” the Urban League writes about its new facility for young adults facing homelessness.

Also adding to shelter and services in the Central District is the newly opened 24-hour young adult shelter run by the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. This shelter, offering service to clients ages 18-24, was established in partnership with New Hope Missionary Baptist Church and funded by the city. Organizers don’t disclose the shelter’s exact location so clients don’t show up without referral, according to Augustine Cita, vice president of operations at ULMS.

“The challenge was creating 25 beds in a big enough space where we could still practice social distancing and how would we intake people into the shelter who were homeless and keep staff safe who were working at the shelter and other clients,” Cita said. “Those were the biggest challenges at first that caused us to come up with some extra precautions to avoid spreading of the virus.”

According to Cita, the new shelter has yet to reach full capacity and has had about 10 guests at most out of the 25 available beds. Cita runs the logistics of getting the shelter setup and explained that the COVID-19 crisis shifted initial plans to have a night only shelter in favor of establishing a 24-hour shelter.

“I think the city was responding to a couple of other shelters that got closed down due to COVID-19 and there was concern about young people, 18 to 24 year olds, that were formerly housed at the shelter that would have nowhere to go,” he said.

Late last year, 19th Ave facility PSKS shuttered after the building it calls home was sold to a multifamily property developer.

The ULMS website states that its new shelter will stay open for the duration of the pandemic.

“It was originally slated to go until the end of the year, so I don’t know what will happen in 2021,” he said. “This shelter’s going to go on until the end of 2020, it just won’t be a 24 hour shelter if things get better with the virus.”

The shelter offers many services beyond temporary sleeping arrangements, such as case management assistance and help finding permanent housing.

“We’re trying to meet the needs of the client, whatever they are, we’re not just trying to house people and kick them out in the morning,” he said. “It’s a considerable amount of effort, energy and money that’s going into what we’re doing outside of just offering them a place to sleep.”

Information on the shelters, including how to donate needed supplies to Mary’s Place, can be found at marysplaceseattle.org and urbanleague.org.


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James in the CD
James in the CD
6 months ago

So happy about this! The CD really is the best hood in Seattle!

RRR
RRR
6 months ago

That Urban League shelter looks like an absolute nightmare to sleep in, but at least they’re offering some kind of secure storage, I guess? Could they not have shelled out a little extra for actual bedframes and washable foam mats instead of rickety uncomfortable cots? I know from personal experience that a shelter is not supposed to be luxury sleeping but my spine hurts just looking at those.

dftl
dftl
6 months ago
Reply to  RRR

Foam mats are not “washable”. These cots are designed to be sturdy, bedbug free, and easy to deploy. If you want to pony-up funds for more comfortable bedding, I’m sure that they would welcome the funds.

Ricky Gutierrez
5 months ago

Are we Vulnerable population in Motels right now going to be set out because of lack of funds via DESC, Navagation Center been told money is gone July 1st very stressed out no news on our fate