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Potential options
to meet immediate survival needs

In May 2011, Councilmember Nick Licata sponsored
a resolution that passed unanimously creating a work plan and timeline for analyzing alternatives to meet the long-term housing and immediate survival needs of homeless people without shelter.

The resolution laid out the following possible alternatives:

  1. Renovating Fire Station 39 as a possible shelter or housing facility
  2. Working with faith-based communities to support shelter space in church buildings or parking lots, or on City land leased to churches
  3. Purchasing a motel to provide transitional housing
  4. Providing additional rent assistance vouchers
  5. Considering an encampment at a location such as those sites reviewed by the Citizen Review Panel
  6. Modifying the City's existing shelter service contracts to address any shortcomings identified in the HSD and Council reviews

  1. Renovating Fire Station 39 as a possible shelter or housing facility
  2. On May 12, 2011, Councilmembers Licata and O'Brien joined Mayor McGinn at a press conference announcing their proposal to use old Fire Station 39, which was previously used as a temporary host for Nickelsville earlier this year. After that announcement in an effort to begin determining what concerns Lake City residents had, the Councilmembers and Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith held a meeting in Lake City on July 13.

    On November 24, 2011, Fire Station 39 opened up to temporarily shelter up to 100 men and women during the winter months of this year, sponsored by the Union Gospel Mission. It will close on April 1, 2012.

    It offers services to help guests out of homelessness, including food, laundry, and legal services necessarily for upward mobility. Likewise, it will provide a dental clinic and substance-use treatment programs.

    The station opened up to serving the homeless after a good deal of consultation with community members and between councilmembers. On November 8, the Seattle City Council unanimously adopted a Statement of Legislative Intent that says, in part, that "the Mayor and Council are supportive of the future redevelopment of FS 39 as long-term housing for low-income or formerly homeless individuals and/or families that may include the provision of services, as well." The council also recognized that the Union Gospel Mission’s proposal "incorporates a number of the suggestions made by the community in an effort to respond to concerns raised by neighboring residents and businesses."

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  3. Working with faith-based communities to support shelter space in church buildings or parking lots, or on City land leased to churches
    1. Encampments at religious facilities code revision
    2. Many of the encampments around the City of Seattle developed on the properties of religious facilities, partially because the City has agreed in the past, regardless of land use codes, to allow these institutions to house the homeless as a part of their religious mission. To clarify expectations the City has for these arrangements, in early-October 2011 the City Council passed and the Mayor signed Council Bill 117288, which permits transitional encampments as a use accessory to religious facilities.

      The new ordinance adds to the Seattle Municipal Code language which allows transitional encampments to locate on sites owned or occupied by religious facilities. The ordinance requires all encampments to set a 100-person occupancy limit, requires specific fire and health safety standards such as first aid kids, toilets and running water, and makes it so encampments must allow site inspections ensure standards are being maintained. The law also defines "transitional encampment" as a tent or shelter "that provides temporary quarters for sleeping and shelter." These mandates are similar to those recommended by an expert panel assembled by the Mayor last year.

    3. Funding one-time capital costs for shelter facility improvements at religious institutions looking to shelter or serve the homeless
    4. The City’s 2012 budget further incentivized religious institutions to house the homeless by creating a $75,000 Opportunity Fund for facility improvements that would allow institutions to provide services or shelter to those in need. The Council will receive a report by September 2012 outlining the program’s successes and failures.

    5. Church-sponsored Car Camping Program
    6. It is estimated that about 800 people in Seattle live in their cars, and a good deal of that 800 live either in Ballard or south of downtown.

      Councilmember O'Brien worked in Summer 2011 with Ballard Homes for All, a group that provides people living in their vehicle in Ballard to come onto their property and away from the potential danger and harassment of the street.

      Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church in Ballard announced in October 2011 that the church would host the city’s first safe parking pilot program. The church will allow one-to-five cars to stay all-day long, and the guests would have access the church’s restroom facilities.

      Just as importantly, the pilot program will provide case management services, will choose participants based on their desire to move into permanent housing, and will require guests to provide either a small financial or service contribution for being allowed to stay on the church’s property.

      The City’s 2012 budget allotted $20,000, with an additional $10,000 coming from the state, to fund case management services and other operational costs of the facility. The funding, however, is supposed to be one-time only.

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  4. Purchasing a motel to provide transitional housing
  5. Although since the May 2011 passage of Resolution 31292, the City has not made any specific investments to use motels as transitional housing, the Catholic Community Services of Western Washington is applying for funding from the city, county and state to turn the Fremont Inn – formerly the Thunderbird Motel – into a location to house 71 chronically homeless men and women living on less than 30 percent of the median income.

    The Catholic Community Services of Western Washington already runs the Aloha Inn on Aurora Avenue, which the City Council considers a possible model to consider future motel-housing options. The Aloha Inn allows residents to stay at its location for up to nine months while they save money for permanent housing to get out of homelessness, providing food, counseling, employment assistance, and basic vision and dental care to its residents. The Aloha Inn also follows a self-governance structure that decides day-to-day issues that impact residents.

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  6. Providing Additional rental assistance vouchers
  7. The City of Seattle started a rental assistance program in 2003 that provided approximately 400 households short-term rent assistance. The program, eligible to households earning up to 50 percent of the region's median income, can be used by individuals who are experiencing a one-time crisis that could lead to eviction or housing loss. Such crises include job loss, illness, divorce or a death in the family.

    The program, which was originally funded by the federal government, is now being funded by the 2009 Seattle Housing Levy. It also funds what it calls "rapid rehousing," which provides funds to families or individuals who have already lost their homes.

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  8. Citizen Review Panel's Recommendations
  9. In October 2010, noting the cost and safety benefits of encampments like Tent City, a Citizen Review Panel recommended that the City of Seattle sanction a semi-permanent encampment in place of the current model which forces the camps to move every 90 days.

    More importantly, the panel recommended the city "continue to pursue real, lasting and permanent solutions to homelessness," citing the encampment as a good step, but maintaining that "an encampment should never be considered a long-term solution to homelessness."

    The advisory panel, in additional urging encampments have access to "key services" such as transportation and hygienic infrastructure, also recommended that the city "pursue and take advantage of any opportunity to expand shelter capacity in City or other government owned buildings or structures that are not normally used during the 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM time period."

    The resolution says that the Council will consider an encampment at a location such as those sites reviewed by the Citizen Review Panel that preferably will not require Comprehensive Plan or land use code amendments. The locations for a encampment considered by the Citizens Review Panel would require a Comp Plan change. So, in order to implement these recommendations of the Citizens Panel and give maximum flexibility to the potential hosts of such encampments, at the end of May 2011, Seattle City Councilmember Licata proposed two amendments to the 2011-2012 Comprehensive Plan to clarify and consider land use issues associated with long-term encampments, particularly:

    Amending Land Use Policy 10 as follows (additions are bolded): In order to ensure that a wide range of housing opportunities are available to Seattle's current and future residents, generally permit residential uses, including long-term homeless encampments, in all zones, except in industrial zones and some shoreline areas, where residential uses may conflict with the intended industrial or water-dependent use of the area. Long-term homeless encampments may be permitted in industrial zones and some shoreline areas where the encampment would not displace an industrial or water-dependent use.

    And amending Land Use Policy 145 as follows: Prohibit new residential uses in industrial zones, except for special types of dwellings that are related to the industrial area and that would not restrict or disrupt industrial activity. In addition, long-term homeless encampments that will not displace an industrial use may be permitted.

    Councilmember Licata's proposed land use changes, as well as the other proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan, will undergo analysis by the Department of Planning and Development and City's Planning Commission. Eventually, amendments selected by the mayor will be heard before the City Council and voted upon before March 31, 2012.

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  10. Modifying the City's existing shelter service contracts to address any shortcomings identified in the HSD and Council reviews
    1. City funded shelters must help clients move from homelessness to housing. Establishing performance-based contracts that make this and other important outcomes an explicit priority and requirement should be examined.   The City needs to explore how shelter providers can strengthen the provision of services and linkages to housing for their clients.
    2. The City and region need to explore development of a coordinated assessment, referral, and entry program for single adults.   An effective coordinated entry system provides individuals with information and referrals at a central or coordinated point of entry for shelter and housing. At the central intake location, individuals are able to receive an assessment and be referred to appropriate services, shelter, and housing.
    3. The City needs to explore requiring all shelter providers to enter data directly into Safe Harbors system without exception.  Many jurisdictions nationally require government funded providers to do direct data entry into the local Homeless Information Management System. Seattle does not.
    4. The City needs to analyze data to determine if demand warrants additional twenty-four hour shelter beds. Could meet needs specifically for: working homeless, medically-fragile homeless, frail and elderly individuals, and families.
    5. Use new or reallocation of City funding for additional rental assistance or funding for development of affordable housing.  Creation of more housing frees up existing shelter beds for homeless individuals.

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