Seattle deploying ‘hygiene trailers’ with reservable showers

With the COVID-19 outbreak continuing to smolder in the Seattle region, officials are ready to deploy a new resource to help people living unsheltered and hopefully further slow the spread of COVID-19:

The City of Seattle is set to deploy two shower trailers in locations across the City to support the hygiene needs for homeless residents within their communities. Beginning Thursday, King Street Station will host a shower trailer five days per week, and a mobile shower trailer will be hosted in Lake City and Seattle Center, with more locations under consideration. King Street Station will also receive a hygiene station. In addition, a hygiene map, located on HSD website, that represents all open and available facilities was launched with this effort.

The city says its new shower trailers include three shower stalls each plus a toilet and sink. Hours of operation are 10 AM to 4 PM, excluding holidays, as the trailers are deployed on a schedule around the city: Continue reading

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.” Continue reading

With Seattle U Homeless Rights Advocacy Project roots, Third Door Coalition emerges as alternative to ‘Tax Amazon’

A coalition to address homelessness in the Seattle region announced a proposal Tuesday to build 6,500 units of permanent supportive housing in King County in a five-year, $1.6 billion effort.

The Third Door Coalition was founded in 2018 “with focused conversations at Seattle University” and includes a group representing the restaurant and hotel industries, academics, and homelessness service providers and advocates including Chad Mackay of Fire & Vine HospitalityProfessor Sara Rankin of Seattle University School of LawDaniel Malone of the Downtown Emergency Service Center, and Paul Lambros of Plymouth Housing.

“The plan calls for a public-private partnership to fund an estimated capital cost of $1.6 billion over the next five years,” a Seattle City Council announcement on the launch of the effort reads. “The Coalition also identifies ways to drive down the currently high costs of building permanent supportive housing.” First-year council member Andrew Lewis says he will announce “specific policies to advance the goals of the Third Door Coalition’s recommendations” in coming weeks. Continue reading

Seattle Council looks to rein in homeless sweeps during COVID-19 crisis

The Seattle City Council will pursue emergency legislation to limit homeless encampment sweeps during the COVID-19 crisis. South Seattle rep Tammy Morales is joining Central Seattle’s Kshama Sawant and citywide member Teresa Mosqueda in pushing for a compromise solution to the city’s ongoing clearance of people camping and living outside.

Seattle City Council Insight reports the proposed legislation would “align the city’s practices with guidance from the CDC, which has warned that removing encampments can disperse homeless people into the larger community and potentially increase transmission of COVID-19.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill ‘comfort station’ part of Seattle scramble to help homeless people get through COVID-19 crisis

UPDATE: The city has provided this new map with updated information

The City of Seattle has deployed a Capitol Hill “comfort station” at Cal Anderson Park as part of efforts to increase access to sanitation for people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak. Meanwhile, another dangerous health crisis has emerged here with a disturbing increase in hepatitis cases in the city.

While modeling shows that Washington may have passed the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, people who are unsheltered are feeling the worst of its effects as minimal access to clean running water and restrooms mean the virus can spread rapidly among this vulnerable population.

This was the tense topic of discussion at a Wednesday meeting of a Seattle City Council committee as officials were confronted with local activists calling on them to reopen public spaces and staff them with the National Guard so they will be available to people who are experiencing homelessness.

At the Chief Seattle Club in Pioneer Square, the club’s executive director Colleen Echohawk told the panel that they had to limit bathrooms to four people at a time to comply with social distancing guidelines. One woman, who Echohawk said was menstruating, begged her to use the bathroom.

“I could tell you many, many stories of just desperate need for bathrooms and showers,” Echohawk said. Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, added, “What we are seeing unfold in our city is a truly shocking experience.” Continue reading

Sawant loses fight but ‘Tax Amazon’ COVID-19 relief and housing proposal begins path through Seattle City Hall

With COVID-19 set to tear up the city’s budget, District 3 Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant has turned again to a familiar target: Amazon and the biggest two percent of businesses. But Monday, her council counterparts opted to send a proposal for a new tax on Seattle’s largest companies to provide emergency relief from the pandemic down a legislative pathway not controlled by the Socialist Alternative representative for Capitol Hill’s District 3.

More than 5,400 people signed a petition to the council spearheaded by Sawant to enact the new tax proposed last month with South Seattle rep Tammy Morales. Another over 1,100 people emailed council members calling on them to send the legislation to Sawant’s Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee.

Monday, the suite of three bills was sent unanimously to the Select Budget Committee, chaired by council member Teresa Mosqueda, who said she would work to get the legislation a robust discussion with urgency.

Sawant levied criticisms against council member Lisa Herbold and council president Lorena González for their votes to repeal her head tax on Amazon in 2018.

Monday, several council members, including Herbold, pushed back against Sawant for promoting the idea of a divided council during an emergency.

“I don’t think it’s helpful to really promote that divisive approach to how the council does its business,” Herbold said. “I think this council acts in a way that’s fair and respectful of one another.”

Council member Debora Juarez said “this type of politics in the midst of a lethal pandemic, to me, is unacceptable and a waste of time.” Continue reading

Hand sanitizer, money, and hope — How to help homeless neighbors and Capitol Hill nonprofits through COVID-19

(Image: Be:Seattle)

If employed and housed people think it’s bad when they can’t buy hand sanitizer in the epicenter of COVID-19, the situation is far worse for unhoused and low-income communities.

“Certainly [houseless people are] at a higher risk because they don’t have access to clean themselves as easily. We’re not getting donations of hand sanitizer . . . but they’re definitely at a higher risk,” Kate Rubin, the new executive director for Be:Seattle, tells CHS.

Be:Seattle is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering renters and people experiencing homelessness. One of the ways they do that is through their Sidewalk Pantry, a program where volunteers hand out essential need items directly to people living outside. Donated items include deodorant, soap, menstrual products, socks, and — usually any time except now — hand sanitizer, arguably more important to people who don’t have access to water for hand washing. While Rubin said Be:Seattle is completely out of hand sanitizer, they still have some hand soap to give out. Continue reading

Part of Seattle’s push to house more people in response to COVID-19, a new Tiny House Village is coming to the Central District

An effort “to increase shelter capacity for Seattle’s vulnerable unsheltered populations living in unsafe encampments” will add 30 homes in another Tiny House Village in the Central District:

The Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) is building a new tiny house village at Cherry and 22nd in the Central Area on land owned by the Christ Spirit Church (formerly Cherry Hill Baptist). This site will include 26 tiny houses, a security pavilion, a community kitchen, staff and counseling offices, and bathrooms. Development of the village will begin on Tuesday, March 10, 2020 at 612 22nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98122. The village, along with staff and supportive services, will be ready for occupancy by the end of March. There will be 24/7 staffing and case management available on-site to help connect residents to housing and services. This village is supported by members of the church. The village is receiving operational support from the City of Seattle – in support of citywide efforts to create additional spaces for people living unsheltered during the COVID-19 crisis. Volunteers support in the construction of tiny houses.

The new Cherry village will be run by the Low Income Housing Institute nonprofit that operates the city’s Tiny House Villages. The effort is part of emergency measures from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan as the region deals with the spread of the coronavirus.

In a statement on the new investments, LIHI Executive Director Sharon Lee thanked the mayor for “providing resources quickly to stand up Cherry Hill Village.” Continue reading

State effort to create a new business tax for homelessness and housing stalls out in Olympia

A state legislative effort Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant derisively referred to as the Protect Bezos Act has died in the 2020 session’s legislative process in Olympia.

HB 2948 couldn’t find the needed support and didn’t make it out of the House Committee on Finance. 43rd District Rep. Nicole Macri co-sponsored the proposal that would have allowed King County to institute a tax on businesses to pay for homelessness and housing. The 0.1% to 0.2% tax on the payrolls of large employers would have generated around $121 million per year in Seattle. Continue reading

‘To actually prevent winter evictions,’ Durkan proposes alternative to Seattle City Council’s ban

Mayor Jenny Durkan won’t veto the bill but the she said Tuesday she also won’t sign Seattle’s new law banning evictions during winter months as she proposed a new plan for $200,000 in funding for an existing eviction prevention program.

The middle ground decision means the council’s legislation — including a loophole for “small landlords” who own four or fewer units — will now become law.

But Durkan says she is proposing a new solution be taken up by the council, saying the its winter eviction ban championed by District 3 representative Kshama Sawant created only “a legal defense during eviction proceedings” and “nearly half of households failed to contest an eviction or appear in court.” Continue reading