King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) will lead the severe weather sheltering response starting January 1, 2022
As in year’s past, the Human Services Department, in coordination with the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and City departments, has prepared its emergency sheltering response in the event of a major snowstorm or severe cold weather event this year.
HSD has identified hundreds of potential shelter spaces, including at Fisher Pavilion, Exhibition Hall and City Hall, that may be activated for an emergency response based on different scenarios, including a short-term or longer-term weather event. Other locations may be activated during a large-scale response, however, as the ongoing impacts of COVID necessitate social distancing in shelters and provider capacity to operate multiple sites remains a challenge across our shelter system.
A short-term winter weather emergency response is activated when there is a snow accumulation in excess of 1-inch and/or forecasted temperatures of 25 degrees or below for multiple days. A long-term response is activated when the weather conditions significantly impact people living homeless, including snow accumulation of over 6-inches, 25 degrees or below for multiple days and/or a State of Emergency declaration. Both weather event scenarios may include other health and safety considerations such as a wind advisory or ice.
In January 2022, the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) will assume responsibility for funding, contracting, and managing programs addressing homelessness. The KCRHA will also assume the lead role in severe weather response to people experiencing homelessness, including coordination to access and use City of Seattle owned sites for shelter.
To prepare for this year’s winter response and the transition to KCRHA in 2022, HSD and KCRHA have participated in regular meetings with partner departments such as OEM, Finance and Administrative Services, Seattle Center, Seattle Parks and Recreation, and provider partners. This includes a Severe Weather Operation Readiness meeting, System Transition Briefing with KCRHA, 2-Hour Severe Weather Sheltering Exercise, and a Seattle Disaster Management Committee Briefing.
HSD and other City departments have been working hard to stand up new 24/7 enhanced shelters and tiny house villages this fall prior to winter, opening 350 new non-congregate shelter spaces in the last three months alone. HSD anticipates funding over 2,800 total shelter spaces by the end of the year, a 700-shelter unit increase over last year’s levels (Q4 2020). Additionally, 92% of City-funded shelter spaces are now 24/7 enhanced with wraparound onsite services – this compares to 75% pre-pandemic (Q4 2019).
New shelter spaces include:
- Benu Community Home (150 spaces) and Friendship Heights (41 tiny houses) – Opened Nov. 30
- Expansion of Interbay Tiny House Village (30 tiny houses) – Opened Nov. 16
- Rosie’s Tiny House Village (36 tiny houses) – Opened Oct. 18
- JustCARE hotel rooms (89 rooms) – Available in September
Currently, HSD is working in partnership with Seattle City Light to reopen the Queen Anne Shelter (157 Roy Street) before the end of the year, which would add another 40 units of 24/7 enhanced shelter.
HSD’s HOPE Team, as they were during previous emergency responses, are at the ready to coordinate the City’s engagement and transportation efforts in support of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.