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Seattle and King County expand COVID-19 emergency shelter and housing response

image of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Facing an unprecedented public health crisis, the City of Seattle and King County announced yesterday that we are working with partners across the region to create additional shelter space and a range of temporary housing options for people who are unable to isolate and recover in their own homes, or do not have a home. These actions will help slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout the region and preserve critical hospital beds for the most acutely ill.

There has been a total of 1,893 spaces created by:

  • Creating more emergency shelter (95 new beds)
  • Creating more social distancing in existing shelters (709 expansion spaces)
  • Creating isolation [for confirmed cases] or quarantine spaces [for possible/suspected cases] (432 beds)
  • Creating space for recovery for people who do not require emergent care (up to 612 beds)

“In the last three weeks, the City of Seattle and King County have worked quickly to rapidly create almost 1,900 spaces for individuals experiencing homelessness, so we can slow the spread of COVID-19. This unprecedented deployment of resources at a local level will need the continued support of our state and federal government to create additional facilities with personnel and resources. We know that individuals experiencing homelessness are some of the most at risk for exposure. Our partnership to create new shelter, de-intensify our current high capacity shelters, and create new spaces will go a long way in ensuring more people have the tools they need to stay healthy, the support they need if they are ill, and will help alleviate the growing pressures on our regional health care system,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan.

De-Intensifying Shelters for Individuals Currently in Shelter

In this blog post we want to focus on how we are working closely with higher capacity shelter providers to create more social distancing between individuals, which can help to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A total of 709 expansion spaces are being created, including several opening this week in the City of Seattle.

  • New: Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center (146 spaces) operated by Salvation Army and opening this week
  • New: Garfield Community Center (50 spaces) operated by Catholic Community Services, YWCA, and WHEEL and opening this week
  • New: Miller Community Center (50 spaces) operated by Compass and opening this week
  • New: SW Teen Life Community Center (50 spaces) opening early April
  • New: Loyal Heights Community Center (50 spaces) opening early April
  • Exhibition Hall at Seattle Center (179 spaces), open and operated by DESC.
  • King County Airport (80 spaces), open and operated by Catholic Community Services and St. Martin de Porres
  • Harbor Island (24 spaces) open April
  • Congregation for the Homeless in Bellevue (80 spaces), open and operated by CFH.

Staff with the Seattle Human Services Department and King County’s Department of Community and Human Services 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. They are also cross-training other City staff to help support operations in the shelters — and they are even pitching in to help set some of these spaces up!

Here are some photos of preparations underway for the Miller Community Center shelter space, operated by Compass Housing Alliance, which opens tonight. Staff moved quickly to unpack, arrange, and carefully space sleeping cots in the community center gym.

Where to get the most up-to-date public health information 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), DOH, and PHSKC have issued specific guidance to help communities and businesses prepare. You can find guidance for the general public, schools, workplaces and employers, travelers and health care professionals as well as a more detailed Q&A here.