The City of Seattle provided an update Tuesday on details of more than 350 new spaces of enhanced shelter programs at hotels, tiny house villages, and a new women’s shelter in addition to the new permanent housing resources for people experiencing homelessness and facing significant barriers to housing.  

Since 2017, the City has invested significant resources towards 24/7 enhanced shelters and tiny home villages as the most effective programs to move individuals towards permanent housing. In 2021, these enhanced shelter resources will provide more capacity and safe shelter during COVID-19 and beyond. The hotel programs are temporary and coupled with robust rapid-re-housing and permanent supportive housing will ensure clients in the hotel shelters will have direct access to housing.  

“In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic upended every aspect of our homelessness response. Yet in Seattle, we came together to craft a public health-driven response that limited outbreaks amongst our most vulnerable residents. During the pandemic, we took unprecedented steps to – deploy hygiene resources, stand up shelter, housing, and a new Regional Authority, and now we are taking additional actions to bring more people inside into safer places and transition more individuals to permanent housing,” said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “While I look forward to more federal resources to help cities address this humanitarian crisis, many of our partners are standing up resources at an immensely challenging time for organizations and staff.” 

In late November, these efforts were approved by City Council. They build on the City’s year-long work to de-intensify shelters, create new enhanced shelter space, and stand-up tiny house villages in response to the pandemic. The Mayor’s 2021 budget supported 2,300 existing spaces, of which 2,100 will be in enhanced shelters and tiny home villages. In 2017, the City had 964 basic shelter beds, 749 enhanced shelter spaces, and 255 spaces at sanctioned encampments.  

New Temporary Hotel Shelters  

Two hotels—the Kings Inn in Belltown and the Executive Hotel Pacific downtown—will serve as temporary 24/7 enhanced shelters.  

The Chief Seattle Club (CSC) will operate a 24/7 enhanced hotel shelter at the Kings Inn, providing 66 non-congregate hotel rooms with wraparound services on site. CSC will provide case management and housing navigation services to help American Indian/Alaska Natives facing high barriers find housing. CSC’s shelter operations will ramp up this month and will be ready for clients in March.  

“Chief Seattle Club is so grateful to the City of Seattle for our partnership on the new shelter hotel,” said Derrick Belgarde, Deputy Director of Chief Seattle Club. “In King County, American Indians/Alaska Natives experience the most disproportionate rates of homelessness with 28% of our community living outside, although we are less than 1% of the population. This hotel allows our homeless relatives living on the streets to move into safe and warm shelter during COVID-19, one of the most challenging time periods of our lifetime.” 

The Executive Hotel Pacific, which has been previously utilized as a COVID-19 recovery space for first responders, will also open as a 24/7 hotel-based enhanced shelter. The program is projected to utilize up to 155 non-congregate hotel rooms. It will include case management and housing navigation services designed to meet the needs of people facing barriers to housing with an expected opening date in March, assuming the finalization of a contract with the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) as the shelter operator.  

The hotels will be leased for up to 12 months, including a one-month set-up and ramp-down process. The City’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) oversaw the procurement and licensing process, working with the Human Services Department (HSD) to identify key program needs. This includes; hotel size and location; floor plans for rooms and common areas; cost; COVID-19 safety; speed of program activation; and facility maintenance. The hotel rooms will include microwaves for clients and both programs will ramp-up operations over time, reaching full program capacity in the spring. 

The City continues to identify additional sheltering sites. 

Rapid Re-housing and Permanent Supportive Housing 

Both temporary hotel programs will be supported by robust rapid re-housing resources, which are projected to serve up to 230 households to exit individuals into permanent housing. In the second half of 2021, at least 600 new permanent supportive homes will open, supplementing the new rapid re-housing opportunities. In addition, the City will continue to work with the County on additional resources in Seattle with the County’s new .1% sales tax authority.  

New Tiny House Villages 

Three new tiny home villages were approved as part of the 2021 budget. A new tiny house village in the University District will be operated by LIHI and is expected to provide up to 40 tiny houses. The village is on Sound Transit property that the agency will later develop into transit oriented development. The village will open as soon as April, pending finalizing a lease and service agreements.    

“I share the concerns of my constituents that unsheltered homelessness in our streets, greenways, and parks has increased during the COVID pandemic and we need action to help those in need and restore our public spaces for everyone,” said Alex Pedersen, Seattle Councilmember for District 4. “With social distancing requiring alternate shelter solutions until vaccines are available to all, I believe that well-organized Tiny House Villages can be a cost-effective intervention when coupled with professional case management and performance-based contracts to ensure positive results. Rather than just talking about it, we did the legwork to find a suitable short-term location and funding for a Tiny House Village and I’m pleased we are able to stand it up quickly thanks to Sound Transit, our City’s Human Services Department, and caring neighbors and small businesses.” 

“Too many people are sleeping outside, leaving them especially vulnerable during the COVID 19 crisis,” said Sharon Lee, Executive Director of LIHI. “Tiny houses are heated and insulated, with locking doors, to keep people warm and safe. The village will shelter singles, couples, seniors, and people with pets who have few other options. We applaud Sound Transit and the City of Seattle for their bold steps to utilize public land and resources to provide for those experiencing homelessness. We want to thank the many advocates, donors, and volunteers who have been tirelessly working to build tiny houses.” 

A second tiny house village location is planned for North Seattle. The program will host up to 40 tiny houses and will open this Summer. Community engagement, program design, and provider service agreement will be completed prior to the village’s opening. 

The City is continuing to seek additional locations for its third tiny home village that is fully funded in 2021.  

New Enhanced Shelter  

On February 12, a new shelter for women opened at the First Presbyterian Church, adding 60 new shelter beds. The City  funds this shelter through Catholic Community Services, which sub-contracts operations to Women’s Housing, Equality and Enhancement League (WHEEL). The shelter began as an overnight shelter during February’s snowstorms, but will become a 24/7 enhanced shelter for women experiencing homelessness in the coming weeks. Case management and housing navigation services will be provided. The space includes showers, a dining area, nurse’s station, case manager’s office, and storage. Until recently, First Presbyterian Church hosted an enhanced shelter for a number of years until the program moved to a new site in Pioneer Square. 

“WHEEL is thrilled and grateful to be able to expand our heart’s work by operating 60 additional loving, low-barrier shelter beds to the most vulnerable homeless women of Seattle,” said WHEEL leader Anitra Freeman. “We’ve operated a shelter in partnership with the City since 2000, and our mission has always been never to turn a woman away without a confirmed referral. That’s been beyond challenging during the pandemic, but with this great new resource we can do even more, even in these terrible times.” 

Referrals  

Referrals to these new shelter resources will be coordinated by the HSD’s Homelessness Outreach and Provider Ecosystem (HOPE) Team. The announcement of new shelter resources coincides with enhancements to the shelter referral process made in collaboration with the City’s contracted outreach and shelter service providers to improve the efficiency and accuracy of service connections. The HOPE Team will work closely with service providers to provide technical assistance to match persons currently living unsheltered to shelter and housing programs that best meet their needs. Last month, Mayor Durkan’s Innovation and Advisory Council announced a new project between Seattle IT, the HOPE Team, and Tableau to strengthen real-time data for outreach providers to make shelter referrals and build the path towards better service matching for individuals experiencing homelessness.   

Funding 

HSD ran a competitive process to generate proposals to operate the new hotel shelter resources. Operators will be responsible for operating the shelter and programming within the hotels, with the goal of moving clients directly to housing before the end of the hoteling period. The majority of costs will be paid for by a one-time $26 million Emergency Solution Grant (ESG) from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The City continues to advocate the federal government for additional ESG award funds in the next COVID-19 relief package to meet the high-level of need.  

Next Steps 

The Department of Neighborhoods (DON) will work with HSD and the Mayor’s Office to engage neighborhoods, businesses, and organizations near the hotels, villages, and new women’s shelter to offer program updates, answer questions, and to establish ongoing communication. Residents and property managers are encouraged to contact CommunityUpdate@seattle.gov for more information. Shelter service providers will host community meetings leading up to program openings. The new tiny house villages will organize Community Advisory Committees (CACs), which allow members of the community, village residents, and shelter providers to meet and discuss the village on a regular basis.  

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