Seattle (May 30) –
To help people experiencing homelessness get into safer places where they are more likely to access services, Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today announced a new plan to increase the number of bridge housing and shelter units in the next 90 days by 25% to serve an additional 522 people every night.
“People rightfully say: we are and must be a better city than this. Thousands of people are living outside of our system and unsheltered. We all see some of the worst imaginable conditions – people are living among rats, needles, human waste, and garbage. And every three days, someone without a home dies in this City. We must act to move people off the streets and into safer, more stable places where they can more easily access the services they need,” said Mayor Durkan.
“I support the Mayor’s efforts to provide more immediate shelter, and King County is working in partnership with its cities to add more shelter and housing capacity throughout the county so people experiencing homelessness have a safe and secure place to rebuild their lives. Providing alternatives to tents and RVs is an important step to tackling homelessness, and we must also continue to focus on root causes to truly make a difference in our communities,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.
Pending final approval by City Council, Mayor Durkan’s proposal would increase the number of bridge housing and shelter units in the next 90 days by 25%. Her plan would serve an additional 522 people every night by:
- Expanding enhanced shelter capacity to serve an additional 180 people;
- Creating bridge housing at Haddon Hall serve 100 people through a master lease;
- Expanding City Hall’s basic shelter serving 120 people each night;
- Supporting of Whittier Heights Women’s Village, a tiny home village serving 19 chronically homeless women; and
- Opening 54 tiny homes in South Lake Union and 30 new tiny homes at 18th and Yesler following community engagement and site approval. These tiny homes would serve approximately 103 people.
In addition, Durkan’s plan will provide funding for 163 basic shelter beds set to close at the end of May. Currently, the City of Seattle operates 2,032 shelter beds. This includes 1,185 enhanced shelter beds, 259 units in tiny home villages, and 588 basic shelter beds. However, the City-funded shelters and sanctioned encampments are at or near capacity; they are at least 93% full every night.
In January 2018, Mayor Durkan proposed her “Building a Bridge to Housing for All” legislation to create additional bridge housing and shelter options as well as affordable housing. Passed unanimously by City Council in February and signed by the Mayor, it called for a Bridge Housing Investment Strategy to increase our capacity to quickly and cost-effectively move people experiencing homelessness to safety through new bridge housing and shelter.
Mayor Durkan is proposing to create new resources to bring people off the streets and into safer places through a variety of strategies. Because enhanced shelters are more successful at exiting more people to permanent housing, Mayor Durkan’s proposed investments are focused on building more capacity at enhanced shelters. Mayor Durkan’s plan would also provide dedicated beds to serve individuals living unsheltered referred by the City’s Navigation team as well as approximately 120 families and children. Providing more capacity for people living unsheltered to move into safer places like enhanced shelters and tiny home villages will also make it easier for them to access services including substance use treatment, mental health care, food, employment support, and case management professionals.
“Mayor Durkan recognizes that ‘we’re all better off when we’re all better off,’” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia. “I am grateful for her understanding of the desperate needs of our neighbors who we see every day sleeping in tents and cardboard on our City’s streets and knowing that there’s a better way to care for people and improve lives in our city. Today’s announcement responds both to the needs of people on the street as well as to demands of our housed neighbors. This is a big step toward the regional response we seek.”
“We must be unrelenting in our efforts to expand temporary and long-term housing options for individuals and families experiencing homelessness,” said Councilmember M. Lorena González, Pos. 9 – Citywide. “This expansion of shelter options is a demonstration of the City’s commitment to the need to invest across the spectrum of homeless services and housing that will make a measurable impact on reducing the amount of human suffering people experience on our streets every single day and night. This short-term strategy, coupled with investments in the creation of deeply subsidized affordable housing, is part of the solution to addressing homelessness. I continue to welcome a partnership with Mayor Durkan, my colleagues, regional leaders and service providers to effectively chart our path out of the current homelessness crisis in Seattle and the region.”
“To simultaneously address the crises of rising rents, opioid addiction, and an underfunded mental health system, we need both short- and long-term solutions,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, District 6 – Northwest Seattle. “I believe that the Mayor’s effort is a step in the right direction towards the large-scale effort this City needs to meet the emergency shelter needs of community members. In addition to today’s steps, we will simultaneously need to increase our production of affordable housing units to permanently house people.”
“It’s immoral that in Seattle thousands of people are living outside. We must act with urgency and compassion to create the shelter and supportive housing needed now. Until we build significantly more affordable housing, expand shelters, and reduce the number of people entering homelessness, people will continue to suffer needlessly and die on Seattle’s streets,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, Pos. 8 – Citywide. “Today is a small but important piece of the puzzle to provide shelter to those without homes in our city.”
Under Mayor Durkan, the City of Seattle is also continuing their investments in preventing homelessness. Earlier this year, Mayor Durkan launched the Seattle Rental Housing Assistance Pilot Program, which will serve approximately 1,000 low-income households to provide a range of critical resources, including rental assistance and utility discounts as applicable.
“Helping people experiencing homelessness takes a full range of options—from keeping people in the housing they have to helping people living on the streets get the support and services they need to move back in to housing,” said Jason Johnson, Interim Director of the City’s Human Services Department. “I am thankful that through Mayor Durkan’s leadership we can focus on increasing access to safer spaces that match people with the best support options for their individual needs.”