Facing an unprecedented public health crisis, the City of Seattle is working to slow the spread of COVID-19 for individuals experiencing homelessness. Working with Public Health – Seattle & King County and King County, shelter resources are being deployed to:
- Create more emergency shelter for unsheltered individuals
- Create more social distancing for clients of existing high-use shelters
- Create isolation (for confirmed cases) or quarantine spaces (for possible/suspected cases)
- Create space for recovery for people who do not require emergent care
Public Health – Seattle & King County and City officials determined early in the COVID-19 crisis that reducing density in large, high-capacity shelters was a priority to slow the spread of COVID-19 as well as opening spaces for individuals without homes to isolate, quarantine, and recover. While de-intensification efforts have focused on improving health conditions for existing shelter clients, these de-intensifying shelters also offer expanded services for many clients: from basic shelter (mats on floors) to now include meals, hygiene and cleaning services, and 24/7 access to a safe space that they are not required to leave every morning.
Service provider staffing remains one of the largest obstacles to standing up, operating, and staffing shelters during the COVID-19 emergency. The City will continue to work with service providers to identify emerging shelter needs in the weeks ahead for both individuals who are currently connected to the City’s shelters or living unsheltered.
New Capacity for Unsheltered Individuals Experiencing Homelessness
The City of Seattle has created 95 new spaces for people experiencing homelessness. These units will be exclusively for unsheltered individuals referred by the Navigation Team’s continued outreach or other outreach providers in order to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Last week, the City announced the opening of 45 new spaces for unsheltered individuals with the expansion of Lake Union Village by 20 spaces and the opening of Cherry Hill – Spirit Village (T.C. Spirit Village) in the Central District , which includes 25 units for people currently living unsheltered. The Cherry Hill – Spirit Village (T.C. Spirit Village) will provide safe shelter spaces, access to hygiene services and case management throughout and beyond the COVID-19 crisis for individuals experiencing homelessness. Lake Union Village was established in 2018. With the addition of 20 new spaces, staffing, services, and case management will also be expanded to meet the increased need. Referrals to these villages—and all City-funded villages—are coordinated by the Navigation Team.
This week, the City announced the opening of Lakefront Community House in the Bitter Lake community. Beginning on Wednesday, the shelter will open. The facility can provide up to 50 spaces as some rooms can be double occupancy. The former treatment facility is owned by LIHI—which will operate, manage, and staff the shelter. Clients will have 24/7 access, with services, case management, and housing connections. Referrals to this shelter will be coordinated by the Navigation Team.
De-Intensifying Shelters for Individuals Currently in Shelter
The City of Seattle is working closely with higher capacity shelter providers to create more social distancing between individuals, which can help to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The City’s highest capacity shelters were typically overnight only shelters. The City has led efforts to open four new 24/7 shelters to create more physical distancing space for current clients and access to meals, hygiene and services all day. King County has moved hundreds of shelter clients from Seattle’s high-capacity shelters to hotels across the region in response to COVID-19 and the City has partnered by maintaining funding and resources for service providers to continue serving clients in these new locations.
A total of 358 new 24/7 spaces have been opened for shelter clients from the City of Seattle:
- Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center (79 spaces) operated by the City of Seattle in partnership with the Salvation Army
- Garfield Community Center (50 spaces) operated by the City of Seattle in partnership with Catholic Community Services, YWCA, and WHEEL
- Miller Community Center (50 spaces) operated by the City of Seattle in partnership with Compass
- Exhibition Hall at Seattle Center (179 spaces), open and operated by DESC
In addition, the City of Seattle funds operations of DESC and Catholic Community Services (CCS), which have used 200 hotel rooms funded by King County for DESC clients and 80 beds created for CCS in the King County International Airport to de-intensify shelters that serve some of the most vulnerable in the homeless population. The City funds services for 638 clients that are now served by 24/7 operations, and which were previously served primarily by overnight operations.
Currently, staff from the Human Services Department, Seattle Parks & Recreation, and the Seattle Center are providing staff at the City’s sites. These sites are maintaining an effective staff to resident ratio, private security, professional cleaning services, and provide meals. You can view a short video of the shelter options the City has created here.
With the additional 24/7 spaces that have been added, the City is working with service providers to evaluate if additional de-intensification spaces can be added, including the staffing that is necessary for these 24/7 facilities. This includes evaluating the SW Teen Life Community Center, Loyal Heights Community Center, hotels, or mass tent shelters that could be used for either serving current shelter clients or individuals living unsheltered.
Creating Isolation, Quarantine and Recovery Centers
King County has identified locations for isolation, quarantine, assessment and recovery care for individuals who are not able to recover in their own homes, or do not have a home. These centers will also provide space for isolation and quarantine and hospitals to discharge non-emergency COVID-19 cases, freeing up hospital space for those with acute needs. In addition to an open isolation site in North Seattle, King County is expected to open sites in Interbay and SoDo.
Shelter Provider Engagement
Staff with Seattle Human Services Department are working closely with all shelter and day service providers to ensure their ability to follow social distancing guidelines and assist with access to hygiene and sanitation supplies. The City asks the City’s service providers to report daily on individuals who have COVID-19 like symptoms to ensure rapid connection to testing that is being done in partnership with Public Health – Seattle & King County and many mobile health care facilities.
Through its City donation program, the City has also provided PPE to a series of service providers.