The city’s second 24-hour shelter for the homeless opens Thursday in Seattle First Presbyterian Church.
One hundred beds. That’s how much more space local officials will have to offer people living on the streets, when a second 24-hour homeless shelter at Seattle First Presbyterian Church opens on Thursday.
Located in the church’s refurbished basement, the new facility will cater to the long-term homeless. Like the recently opened Navigation Center, the city’s first 24-hour “low-barrier” shelter, it’s designed to be more accessible to people who might otherwise be unable or unwilling to pursue space in local homeless shelters.
New arrivals will have access to shower and kitchen facilities. Men and women will sleep on opposite sides of the shelter’s cavernous main room. Clients will be able to meet with case workers and each other in on-site conference rooms.
Unlike more restrictive shelters, clients will be able to store their belongings, bring along their partners and come and go when they like. Operator Compass Housing Alliance (CHA) will offer clients mental-health, substance-abuse and other supportive services.
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Speaking at a Wednesday reception at the facility, Mayor Ed Murray called the opening another step forward. Pathways Home, his plan to address homelessness, calls for a pivot from traditional overnight shelters to those that provide comprehensive services and longer-term shelter.
“The piecemeal approach is not working,” he said. “It is through these innovative challenges that we will be able to do something about homelessness.”
Church pastor Heidi Husted Armstrong said internal discussions around whether to convert the space into a shelter for the homeless began in February. A messy fight over control of its $30 million in assets had just wrapped up, and the church’s remaining members were ready to plot its future.
Following its 2015 split from its denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the church congregation has dwindled to about 30 members, Armstrong said.
“But we were looking around and we thought, well, we don’t have a lot of people but we have this space,” she said.
After conversations with officials from Operation Nightwatch and other area shelter providers, the congregation voted to move forward with the shelter. The city later awarded CHA a $1.3 million grant to fund the shelter’s operations.
Janet Pope, CHA director, said about 40 clients of Operation Nightwatch have already expressed interest in moving to the new 24-hour facility. Nightwatch, an emergency overnight shelter for men, was displaced from its temporary home in the Pearl Warren building in Seattle’s Little Saigon neighborhood earlier this year after the building was tabbed as the home of the city’s 75-bed Navigation Center.
Meg Olberding, Seattle Human Services Department spokeswoman, said that once the Nightwatch clients are accommodated, city outreach workers will begin referring people contacted in area homeless camps to the CHA shelter.
The opening of First Hill facility provides city officials with needed resources. Under Pathways Home, the city has beefed up its street outreach to people living in unauthorized tent and vehicle camps and the otherwise long-term homeless.
But as the city’s outreach efforts have intensified, shelter space is becoming scarce.
Since February, city outreach teams have reached 1,157 people, with 721 accepting some sort of mental-health, drug-treatment or housing service, officials said. Just over 400 relocated to alternative living arrangements.
The Navigation Center, which was intended as a landing space for people moving out of the camps is nearly at capacity.
Last week, city officials moved to disband camps along the Spokane Street viaduct. Of the 66 people contacted by outreach workers, four were referred to an authorized tiny home camp in Georgetown, according to a city blog post. Another was transported to the Navigation Center.
Others weren’t as lucky. Outreach workers placed three on the center’s waitlist.