A 50-bed shelter at 420 Fourth Ave. will remain open despite an earlier announcement that it would close on June 30.
That was news to the Salvation Army, the organization that runs the shelter opened by King County in December 2015 in response to the newly declared state of emergency on homelessness. The shelter was supposed to close in April, but got an extension until the end of June. As of June 22, even those who operate the facility were unsure that they would have a contract as of July 1.
“The county at the 11th hour called this morning [June 22] and asked if we’d be willing to keep it open,” said Scott Moorhouse, director of shelter programs for the Salvation Army. The shelter has been full this summer, which is unusual, Moorhouse said.
Despite the extension, the shelter’s fate is uncertain. There’s no guarantee that its funding — roughly $30,000 a month from the county — will continue.
The shelter was never intended to be permanent, but it will stay open at least through June, said Sherry Hamilton, spokesperson for the King County Department Community and Health Services.
Any further than that is up in the air.
The facility operates a block away from the King County Administration Building, which also houses a homeless shelter. The county originally purchased it because of its proximity to other county buildings, and offered it for homeless services.
Despite the initial thought to close it, there are no other plans for the space, Hamilton said.
“We’re talking about a state of emergency in which this modest, humble support is keeping people safe and alive."
There is no stated plan to replace the 50 beds, although the city of Seattle has opened three more authorized tent encampments and commits to opening the Navigation Center — a 24-hour, low-barrier shelter that will open July 12 — and a shelter at First Hill, Department of Human Services spokesperson Meg Olberding wrote in an email.
The 75 spaces in the Navigation Center have already been promised to folks from homeless encampments including the East Duwamish Green Belt and Field of Dreams, and isn’t currently open. The First Hill shelter is also not open. The city is authorizing three new encampments.
Although the homeless advocacy community is grateful for the reprieve, the county needs to retain the beds, said Alison Eisinger, director of Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness.
“Find me another [$30,000] in the county’s budget that keeps 50 people safe 30 nights every month,” Eisinger said. “We’re talking about a state of emergency in which this modest, humble support is keeping people safe and alive.
“It seems to me a very good use of [$30,000] a month,” she said.
The potential closure comes amid the conversation around how money directed toward fighting homelessness in Seattle should be spent. The city government has chosen to redirect dollars from emergency shelters toward other kinds of interventions in its Pathways Home initiative. That includes rapid rehousing, a program that offers an average of seven months of support in private-market housing without the same level of services inherent in transitional housing, which often lasts up to two years.
It also appeared within weeks of the results of Count Us In, the most recent tally of people experiencing homelessness in which volunteers scour the county to tally folks living on the streets, in tents or in their vehicles.
Count Us In found 5,485 people unsheltered on a cold night in January.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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Wait, there's more. Check out more articles from the full June 28 issue.
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