On July 12, the City’s new Navigation Center, an enhanced shelter that accepts people with pets, partners, and possessions, as well as substance use disorders, opened its doors to clients. A dormitory-style living facility that provides shower, bathroom, and laundry facilities, as well as meals and a place to store personal belongings, Seattle’s Navigation Center model is important as our community moves to more “low-barrier,” 24/7 shelters.
While the Navigation Center has capacity for 75 people, the City and facility operator Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) have been intentional in welcoming guests into the shelter in small cohorts, which helps guests make the transition indoors and aids staff in establishing strong service relationships from day one. At the end of the first day of operation, July 12, DESC had welcomed eight people. On day 10 of operations, there were 41 guests moved into the Navigation Center.
Homelessness disproportionately affects people of color and the LGBTQ community when compared to their representation in Seattle’s overall population. In fact, African Americans are five times and Native Americans are seven times more likely to be homeless, according to a recent survey conducted by the Human Services Department. Recognizing these disparities, it is the City’s goal that the Navigation Center will serve people who most disproportionately experience homelessness. Early reports on the first 41 clients at the center 10 days after opening indicate 61% are from the program’s focus populations of African American/Black, Multiracial, or Native American; 15% are White; <1% are Asian or Pacific Islander; while race data is currently unknown among 24% at the Navigation Center (intake and data entry are in progress).
Additionally, the Navigation Center is welcoming those who may not have accessed other shelter because of their partners or pets – of the 41 guests, there are 12 chosen groups/partnerships (e.g., couples, mother/daughter, etc.) and five dogs living there.
Enrollment at the Navigation Center is only by referral the City’s Navigation Team, comprised of specially trained Seattle Police officers, outreach workers through REACH and field coordinators who engage with people living unsheltered in Seattle. In the days leading up to the opening, REACH and the Navigation Team Officers began working to reconnect with people who had received referrals during the Navigation Team’s intensive outreach efforts at unsanctioned encampments over the past several months.
The City has funded an additional “low-barrier” shelter in the First Hill neighborhood that is expected to open in August 2017.