Addressing the Crisis

"While we cannot solve this crisis overnight, we must continue urgent action to make progress. We must work together to prevent more people from falling into homelessness, to bring more people off the streets and into safer places, and to pick up garbage, waste, and needles. As we do so, we must be accountable to Seattle taxpayers about the investments we are making, what is working, and where we need to innovate." - Mayor Jenny Durkan

Our City's Homelessness Investments

Last year, the City of Seattle made $68,098,060 in direct investments in the homelessness crisis - from rental assistance programs that prevent people from falling into homelessness to providing bridge shelter to picking up trash to building more low-income housing.

In 2018, Seattle is expected to spend around $78M in direct response to the homelessness crisis, with the majority of that being spent on emergency response (including shelter, hygiene and outreach services), and HSD-supported housing options (permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing and diversion services.)

Graph: Seattle plans to invest approximately $78 million addressing homelessness in 2018

Investment Area 1: Preventing Homelessness

Mayor Durkan's Seattle Rental Housing Assistance Pilot Program

Mayor Durkan announced the launch of her Seattle Rental Housing Assistance Pilot Program, which focuses on preventing households from falling into homelessness while on the waitlist for longer-term assistance. And in April 2018, the City began serving approximately 1,000 low-income households to provide a range of critical resources, including rental assistance and utility discounts as applicable.

Diversion and Rapid Rehousing

Diversion services offer people experiencing homeless one-time financial assistance or services to bypass shelters and move directly to housing. Diversion is offered to people who are homeless but have not yet or have just entered the shelter system. These programs offer financial assistance and/or case management to find creative solutions to the difficulties a person faces. Diversion can help people reunite with family, mediate with a landlord, or pay rent for a short time. Rapid Rehousing assists individuals to quickly exit the homeless services system and move to permanent housing. Rapid Rehousing offers a client rental assistance and supportive services for up to 1 year. A person successfully exits a rapid rehousing program when he is living in permanent housing without a subsidy.

Investment Area 2: Emergency Response

Safer Places Through Bridge Housing

It's inhumane to allow people to live unsheltered without a permanent home and in some of the most dire conditions you can imagine, where they are vulnerable to serious criminal activity; we have a responsibility to help them move into safer places. That's why currently, the City of Seattle operates 2,047 shelter beds - this includes 1,185 enhanced shelter beds, 224 tiny home villages and 588 basic shelter beds. There are additional shelters that serve hundreds of others in Seattle.  However, the City-funded shelters and sanctioned encampments are at or near capacity; they are at least 93% full every night.  In the first three months of 2018, the City's 2,000 basic and enhanced shelters as well as permitted villages served approximately 6,550 individuals.  

Building on the unanimous approval by City Council of her "Building a Bridge to Housing for All" legislation, on May 30, Mayor Durkan announced her proposal to increase the number of bridge housing and shelter units in the next 90 days by 25% to serve an additional 527 people every night. Pending approval by City Council, her plan would serve an additional 522 people every night by supporting:

  • Expanding enhanced shelter capacity to serve an additional 180 people;
  • Creating bridge housing at Haddon Hall serving 100 people through a master lease;
  • Expanding of City Hall's basic shelter serving 120 people each night;
  • Support of Whittier Heights Women's Village, a tiny home village serving 19 chronically homeless women; and
  • 54 tiny homes in South Lake Union and 30 new tiny homes at 18th and Yesler following community engagement and site approval. These tiny homes would serve approximately 103 people.

  In addition, Durkan's plan will provide funding for 163 basic shelter beds set to close at the end of May. 

Graph: Seattle will increase its shelter capacity by 25% thanks to Mayor Durkan's investments.

Cleaning Up Trash and Syringes

The City of Seattle makes significant investments to clean up trash resulting from the homelessness crisis. 

  • Removing Trash from Unmanaged Encampments: In 2017, City removed 3,205 tons (6,410,000 pounds) of garbage and waste from unmanaged encampments. In 2018, the City has removed 260 tons (294,000 pounds).
  • Trash in the Right-of-Way: In May 2018, Seattle began a new Citywide effort to remove garbage and debris from roads, sidewalks, and the public right-of-way adjacent to RVs. Started initially as a pilot in November 2017 in SODO, this new coordinated effort is led by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), SPD's Community Police Team (CPT), Seattle Parks and Recreation (Parks), Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) in order to reduce negative impacts to public health and safety. The pilot is designed to engage RV occupants to voluntarily move their RVs, which allows City crews to clean and remove garbage, waste and immobile vehicles left behind. In the first month, the City has collected nearly 34,270 pounds of trash.
  • Litter Bag Pilot Program: In January 2017, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) began a pilot program to collect trash from unsanctioned encampments and from areas where RV camping is frequent. Working with other City departments and community partners, SPU gives out litter bags and conducts regular and on-call pick-ups. Since the pilot began, SPU has collected nearly 500,000 pounds of trash - approximately 27,800 pounds a month.
  • Syringes: In August 2016, SPU launched a program to collect syringes through complaints as well as special disposal boxes in City public rights-of-way and small bathroom units in City parks. Since it launched in August 2016, SPU has collected 70,934 syringes.

In 2017, Seattle removed over 6 million pounds of garbage from unsanctioned encampments

Day and Hygiene Centers

Day and Hygiene Centers provide a place to rest during the day and a place to tend to basic needs like using the restroom, showering and doing laundry. Helping Seattle's homeless population meet these basic needs and providing access to emergency services can help them to recover from homelessness and find permanent housing.

Navigation Team and Navigation Center

In 2017, the City of Seattle announced the creation of a new "Navigation Team" to connect unsheltered individuals with existing services and shelter. The team is staffed by contracted outreach workers and SPD personnel who have advanced certification in crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques. The purpose of the team's approach is to bring more people inside and create faster resolutions to hazardous situations.

The members of the Navigation Team are primary access point for people served by the Navigation Center, a dormitory-style living facility that provides shower, bathroom, and laundry facilities, as well as meals and a place to store their belongings. Seattle's Navigation Center is open 24/7 and welcomes pets, couples, and individuals currently struggling with addiction, though no drug use is allowed on-site. The Navigation Center serves up to 75 individuals at one time. 

Beds and storage lockers at the Navigation Center

A service recipient at the Navigation Center

Permitted Villages

As part of Seattle's commitment to helping its unsheltered population, our City's response has included establishing City-permitted villages that provide safer spaces for those living on our streets. Seattle's seven permitted villages offer a place for unsheltered people to find stability and connect to housing resources. Each night, the villages provide more than 220 people a secure tiny house structure, access to restrooms and showers, case management, a kitchen, and a managed community.

To learn more about unauthorized encampments in Seattle, please click here. To view a map of unauthorized encampments and areas of emphasis, click here. To learn about the process for removal of encampments, click here.

What is Seattle doing to combat a lack of affordable housing in our region and address long-term solutions to our homelessness and affordability crisis?