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

Following Mayor Durkan's announcement to increase the City of Seattle's bridge housing and shelter units by 25 percent by creating 500 safer spaces, the City of Seattle's Human Services Department (HSD) has worked with partners to bring resources online and available to people experiencing homelessness. With Seattle's shelters operating at or near capacity on a nightly basis, new shelter meets a critical need to create more safe spaces for people sleeping unsheltered throughout the city.

As part of Mayor Durkan's path to 500 new safe spaces, HSD provided funding to Virginia Mason's Bailey Boushay House to open its doors this past November as a new shelter serving HIV positive men. The shelter serves 50 individuals 365 days a year and paired with Virginia Mason's day medical center which provides critical life-saving treatment for HIV positive individuals. (Read local media coverage on the opening of Bailey Boushay House here).

Additionally, through a partnership with King County, Harborview Hall opened in December, serving up to 100 people living unsheltered. The overnight shelter at Harborview Medical Center allows pets and possessions, creating an important new shelter resource on First Hill. Further, the City began enrolling individuals in a new pilot program to provide housing and stability services for 40 low-income people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. The pilot, which is managed by Bailey Boushay, is designed to help clients confidentially access housing by leveraging HOPWA resources with local agencies such as the Chief Seattle Club, Seattle Indian Health Board, Center for Multicultural Health, and others.

With the opening of Harborview Hall and launch of the new HOPWA pilot, the City opened a total of 516 safer spaces in 2018, serving approximately 540 people experiencing homelessness. This increase in shelter capacity is the largest expansion of City-funded shelter resources in Seattle's history. The following shelter resources are now available:

  • Whittier Heights Women's Village - 16 new tiny houses, serving 22 women experiencing homelessness (Opened May).
  • City Hall Shelter - 80 new basic shelter beds at Seattle City Hall (Opened July).
  • YWCA Late Night Motel Vouchers - 40 beds through motel rooms for families experiencing homelessness, which can serve between 40-60 individuals and children each night (Opened July).
  • Salvation Army William Booth Center - 8 additional enhanced shelter beds (Expanded in July).
  • Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets - 5 additional beds within existing young adult shelter (Expanded August).
  • True Hope Village - 35 new tiny houses in Seattle's Central District, serving 58 people experiencing homelessness (Opened September).
  • YWCA's Angeline's Center for Women - 35 new beds within YWCA's existing day center for women (Opened August).
  • Navigation Center - 10 additional beds within the City's first 24/7, enhanced shelter (Expanded in September).
  • Haddon Hall-75 enhanced, 24/7 shelter beds operated by Catholic Community Services and Plymouth Housing (Opened October).
  • Lake Union Village - 22 tiny houses serving 37 adults experiencing homelessness (Opened October).
  • Bailey-Boushay House - In partnership with Virginia Mason, this shelter will serve 50 HIV positive men experiencing homelessness (Opened November).
  • HOPWA pilot - In partnership with Bailey Boushay, serving 40 people living unsheltered and with HIV/AIDs find housing (Opened December).
  • Harborview Hall - 100 overnights shelter spaces at Harborview Medical Center.

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. The numbers below have been updated to reflect amounts collected during all of 2018.

  • 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 more than 1,184 tons (2,368,000 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. The City has collected 322,556 pounds of trash.
  • Encampment 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. The pilot has collected 718,350 pounds of trash - an average of about 31,233 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. The pilot has collected more than 145,916 syringes.  

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?