As downtown Seattle started to see flurries of snow Thursday, the city announced that it will be opening two community centers as 24-hour severe-weather shelters for people living outside.

Those will bring the city total up to 164 as temperatures are expected to drop below freezing in the first winter weather emergency of the year.

Along with 78 shelter spaces that opened Tuesday night at Fisher Pavilion, 305 Harrison St., the city will be opening more beds from Thursday night through Monday morning. Forty-five will be at Bitter Lake Community Center, 13035 Linden Ave N., and 41 spaces at Garfield Community Center, 2323 E. Cherry St. The nonprofit homeless-services organization Low Income Housing Institute will run both community center shelters with support from city staff, and Operation Sack Lunch, nonprofit homeless-meal service, will provide daily meals.

The Seattle Times’ Project Homeless is funded by BECU, Campion Foundation, Raikes Foundation, Seattle Foundation and the University of Washington. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over Project Homeless content.

Thursday night is forecast to be the coldest of the week, as temperatures drop below freezing to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Friday and Saturday are also expected to see below-freezing temperatures as well as at least 3 to 6 inches of snow, with higher totals possible in Seattle depending on winds.

Those winds are expected to be cold and blustery through the weekend.


Snow is expected to let up Saturday evening, but experts are expecting another weather system Sunday into Monday.

An estimated 11,751 people live homeless in King County, with more than 5,500 people living in cars, tents or other places not designed for human habitation. Last year, six people presumed to be homeless by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office died of causes involving hypothermia.

The city announced the Fire Department’s Health One van will be conducting welfare checks on people not in shelter Thursday evening, along with city staffers and outreach workers who are part of the Homeless Outreach and Provider Ecosystem Team in Seattle Parks and Recreation vans.

Tuesday night, King County opened 25 men-only beds at its Fourth Avenue and Jefferson Street building, 420 Fourth Ave., in downtown Seattle. The county extended that shelter’s hours through Monday morning. Sixteen men stayed there on Tuesday, and 15 the next night.

Just 27 people stayed at the Fisher Pavilion shelter Tuesday night, although that number rose to 34 Wednesday night.

Garfield Community Center and Fisher Pavilion were used previously as emergency shelter space last year, when the city, county and homeless services organizations began moving residents out of crowded shelters to new locations in an effort to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission. Officials are employing the same social-distancing protocols, like screening for symptoms, requiring masks and keeping sleeping spaces six feet apart.

Snohomish County has also opened four severe-weather shelters: 3001 Oakes Ave., in Everett; Everett United Church of Christ Winter Shelter, 2624 Rockefeller Ave., in Everett; Maple Park Church, 17620 60th Ave. W., in Lynnwood; and Evergreen State Fairgrounds Park, 14405 179th Ave. S.E., in Monroe.