November 27, 2013
Vol: 27 No: 48

News

City, county budgets include funding to keep Orion Center’s shelter open

by: Aaron Burkhalter , Staff Reporter

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Downtown Seattle’s sole shelter for homeless young adults will stay open five days a week, thanks to new funding approved by the Seattle City Council and the King County Council.

The 2014 budget the Seattle City Council passed Nov. 25 included $130,000 to fund a shelter at The Orion Center. The center is a teen drop-in center that also houses 15 young adults ages 18 to 25 every night.

The city council’s funding, along with $120,000 from the King County Council, will prevent the shelter from closing in February.

Just a month ago, YouthCare was preparing to shutter the program entirely.

A number of the nonprofit’s funding sources expired and were not renewed this year, creating a $1.2 million shortfall.

It costs YouthCare $350,000 a year to operate the shelter. A private grant paid for most of that.

Now with $250,000 in city and county funds, the Orion Center can maintain the shelter for five nights a week, and is seeking private funding so the shelter can remain open all week.

YouthCare has an annual budget of $10.2 million. Government contracts comprise 65 percent and the rest is funded by grants and individual donations.

Earlier this year, the shelter housed 20 young adults, but scaled it back to 15 on Nov. 3. YouthCare held a lottery to determine which 15 young adults would have shelter through February.

With city and county funding secured, YouthCare may reopen some of those shelter spaces before 2014, said Executive Director Melinda Giovengo.

“We’re having conversations about that right now,” she said.

YouthCare is trying to raise another $100,000 from private donors and foundations to bring the shelter back to full capacity.

If the Orion Center shelter had closed, King County would have lost a quarter of the 80 beds reserved for homeless young adults. ROOTS Young Adult Shelter houses 45 young adults each night in the University District, and Friends of Youth houses 15 in Redmond.

The Seattle City Council’s budget expanded a number of other human services programs, including:

• $200,000 for emergency shelter for 30 families with children;

• $112,000 to expand the Road to Housing, formerly known as Safe Parking, a program that helps churches open their parking lots overnight to people living in their cars. The city funding will pay for case managers and rental subsidies for families as they transition into permanent housing;

• $128,000 for Community Power Works, a city-funded program that pays for improving energy efficiency and lowering power bills for poor households.

The Seattle City Council also approved new funding for a popular but still experimental jail diversion program but limited the scope of the project.

Mayor Mike McGinn proposed adding $1.5 million to expand the program’s scope and geography. Currently the program only serves people who are arrested in Belltown on low-level drug and prostitution charges. The additional funding was intended to expand the program across the city and include other low level offenses, such as public urination.

The city council will also allow the program organizers to propose extending the program to include other offenses. To garner approval from city council, organizers will have to detail how the offenses will be covered and show quarterly progress reports on how the program is working.

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