As part of the recently approved 2021 budget, funding was included for a Human Services Department (HSD) led eight-person Homelessness Outreach and Provider Ecosystem (HOPE) Team. This new Team will be the City’s coordinating body for its response to homelessness in partnership with the contracted outreach providers and City departments.
This new collaborative approach to homelessness began before the 2021 budget was adopted, when funding was approved in late October for the remainder of 2020, after months of deliberations between the Mayor’s office, HSD, City contracted outreach providers, and City Council.
The HOPE Team and outreach providers are coordinating outreach at a number of locations across Seattle, including 8th Ave and Jackson Street in the Chinatown International-District, 2nd Ave Extension in Pioneer Square, Green Lake, Denny Park, Albert Davis Park, Cal Anderson Park, and the University District. After the initial month of implementation, preliminary data indicates that the HOPE Team has successfully supported 25 referrals into shelter through at least four different outreach provider agencies. Of these referrals into shelter, 80% were to enhanced shelters or tiny homes, which are the most effective at helping individuals find permanent housing. The HOPE team will verify if clients stay overnight at the shelter the person was referred as a measure of success.
In addition to supporting outreach agencies by facilitating access shelter beds, the HOPE Team is coordinating with City Departments on encampment litter and debris mitigation efforts by Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), including their “purple bag” trash collection program and RV remediation services, as well as continued evaluation and maintenance of hygiene resources. In partnership with Department of Neighborhoods, HSD, and outreach partners, SPU has deployed hygiene resources citywide to help slow the spread of COVID-19, especially among our neighbors sheltering in place. In addition, SPR has completed a full accounting of hygiene resources at Parks facilities throughout the City that are available to people living unsheltered. These resources include nearly 80 24/7 toilet facilities and are updated weekly. HSD has provided an interactive map that highlights locations.
Outreach partners are using new and innovative ways to connect persons experiencing homelessness to services and shelter. For example, REACH recently started a new program that provides “pop-up spaces” that allow them to meet individuals where they are and coordinate with service partners such as the United Way and LEAD. These new approaches during the challenges of COVID-19 are also helping get people inside. The Public Defender Association launched a CARES Act-funded program, JustCARE, in Pioneer Square and the Chinatown-International District, with partners Chief Seattle Club, Asian Counseling and Referral Service, and REACH, resulting in 40 people experiencing homelessness in the Chinatown-International District moving directly into hotel rooms.
With additional enhanced shelter units, including hotels, coming online over the coming months, expansion of the successful Rapid Rehousing program, and the addition of 600 units of new Permanent Supportive Housing in 2021, the City will be expanding access to shelter and housing, making it possible to help our vulnerable neighbors move from street to housing.