September 3, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 36

News

Renovation and building sale put 160 shelter beds in limbo this winter

By Aaron Burkhalter / Staff Reporter

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With cold weather on the horizon, three established Seattle shelters are seeking spaces to house more than 160 people.

Shelters operated by SHARE, WHEEL and Operation Nightwatch can no longer provide shelter in their existing buildings. One building was sold, one nonprofit is repurposing its community space and a church is undergoing construction and cannot host a shelter until 2015.

Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness counted 2,906 people staying in shelters in January. The shelters house at least 5 percent of that population.

The Committee to End Homelessness-King County intends to support existing shelters and prevent any net loss, said director Mark Putnam.

“The balls are in the air,” he said. “It doesn’t feel very certain right now, and that doesn’t feel good to anybody.”

The organization plans to eventually expand shelter by moving long-term shelter residents into apartments and expanding capacity at existing shelters.

“It doesn’t feel like we’re making progress right now, but I’m an optimistic person,” Putnam said.

SHARE’s Safe Havens shelter needs a new space by Sept. 15, said Bob Asplund, 59, who has stayed at the shelter for the last couple months.

Safe Havens was previously operating at the Seattle Indian Center in the International District. The Seattle Indian Health Board purchased the building, and the indian Center and shelter had to moe out.

Safe Havens moved into Cathedral Hall at St. James Cathedral on July 1, but the move was temporary.

The shelter needs enough space for 30 people, Asplund said.

“If it has to be snugger, well, being inside is a whole lot nicer than being outside,” he said.

A WHEEL winter shelter for women needs a new space by Sept. 30. The shelter normally would move into Plymouth Church for the fall and winter, but the church building is under construction until the end of December. Plymouth plans to welcome the shelter back in January.

Catholic Community Services is hosting the shelter at Sacred Heart Hall over the summer.

The shelter is in high demand, said Rosalynne McCort, a WHEEL participant who stayed there earlier this year. “The sleeping bags were all the way up to the door when I walked in a few weeks ago,” McCort said.

Operation Nightwatch has operated a shelter in a community room at the Millionair Club Charity for six years, but will need to leave by Dec. 30. The Millionair Club is repurposing the room for other uses.

The shelter houses 80 people over night.

Operation Nightwatch Executive Director Rick Reynolds hopes to expand the program in a new location. The shelter closes at 5:30 a.m. now; Reynolds hopes to keep it open until 7 a.m. in a new space.

Seattle’s Human Services Department is searching city properties for a new site for the Operation Nightwatch shelter, said Sola Plumacher.

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