Homelessness Outreach and Provider Ecosystem (HOPE) Team

As part of the approved 2021 budget, the City updated its encampment outreach response from the Navigation Team to the Homelessness Outreach and Provider Ecosystem (HOPE) Team.

What does the HOPE Team do?

The HOPE Team, within the City of Seattle Human Services Department (HSD), coordinates efforts by outreach, shelter providers, City departments, and community to help people living unsheltered in Seattle. The HOPE Team also coordinates outreach to high-priority areas where people living unsheltered need support and connections to shelter and services. However, the HOPE Team does not do direct outreach with people who are experiencing homelessness and Seattle Police Department officers are not embedded in this new model. Additionally, the HOPE Team does not lead encampment removal operations.

The HOPE Team coordinates referrals, based on recommendations from outreach providers, to City-funded shelters, including the more than 350 new shelter resources coming online this year. The recent announcement of these new shelter resources coincides with enhancements to the shelter referral process made by the HOPE Team in partnership with City-contracted outreach and shelter services providers to improve the efficiency, accuracy, and equity of service connections.

The HOPE Team is working with contracted outreach providers to improve information sharing and data collection processes through the use of new technology. This will allow for assessment of current service needs and shelter access, as well as an analysis of the impact of outreach over time.

In addition to supporting outreach agencies by facilitating access to shelter beds, the HOPE Team is coordinating with City departments on encampment litter and debris mitigation efforts through the Clean City initiative, as well as continued evaluation and maintenance of hygiene resources.

HOPE Team Referral Process and Information for Providers

How Referrals to Shelter Work

The referral process begins with needs and/or shelter assessment by outreach providers with an individual experiencing homelessness. Assessments help the provider and individual identify which shelters are a potential fit for the individual based on entrance criteria, service level, and identified vulnerability characteristics that help prioritize placement.

That information is matched with daily shelter vacancy reporting by City-funded shelter providers in Chatbox, a digital platform that allows for real-time tracking of open shelter spaces. The HOPE Team then receives recommendations for open shelter beds from outreach providers. When a match is made between an individual and an open shelter resource by the team, a recommendation becomes a referral. If there are more recommendations than open beds, the team uses client vulnerabilities and encampment location to decide which recommendations receive the referrals. The HOPE Team then communicates referrals back to the provider who made the recommendation and to the shelter who will be receiving the individual.

The HOPE Team may prioritize recommendations from active City department-identified high-priority sites (such as those facing imminent removal due to hazard, construction, or Multi-Departmental Administrative Rules (MDAR) removal. When prioritizing recommendations from high-priority sites, individual vulnerabilities will still be a driving factor when making referrals.

The HOPE Team strives for equity and inclusion, across race, gender, age, and disability when coordinating shelter referrals.

New Hotel Based Enhanced Shelters

In March 2021, the City of Seattle will open two new temporary enhanced shelter pilot programs at the Executive Hotel Pacific and Kings Inn expected to serve over 200 individuals experiencing homelessness. Referrals into these shelters will be informed by the COVID Risk Prioritization Tiers.

Both programs are linked with permanent housing solutions including Rapid Re-Housing and Permanent Supportive Housing. More information on these programs can be found below in the Referral Process FAQ for Providers.

Flow chart showing referral process for unsheltered individuals encountered on the street to get into shelter and housing.

HOPE Team City-contracted outreach partners:

**Contact for Providers: Tara Beck, Director – tara.beck@seattle.gov

HOPE Team Referral Process FAQ:

The HOPE Team coordinates the shelter recommendations made by outreach providers on behalf of individuals experiencing homelessness and connects the recommendations to open shelter beds such as enhanced shelter and tiny home villages, and now hotel-based shelters at the Executive Hotel Pacific and Kings Inn.

No. The HOPE Team only coordinates the recommendation and referral process into City of Seattle-funded HOPE Team "set-aside" beds, which themselves are a subset of the overall City-funded shelter system.

Coordinating the recommendation and referral process means:   

  • HOPE Team manages the vacancy reporting for HOPE Team shelter set-aside beds for outreach providers
  • HOPE Team receives recommendations for open shelter beds from outreach providers based on service matching conversations between the provider and the individual
  • HOPE Team connects those recommendations to open beds (when a match is made a recommendation becomes a referral)  

In these instances, the HOPE Team prioritizes recommendations from:

  • people with the highest vulnerabilities from active high-priority sites, and
  • individuals that have multiple vulnerabilities regardless of encampment.

Connecting people to open beds is more of an art than an exact science. The prioritization process strives to live into the sometimes-competing values of:

A) ensuring that the most vulnerable members of the unhoused community are able to come indoors as quickly as possible

B) helping people get indoors from encampments that are needing to be resolved

The following are the criteria City departments that own or maintain public property use for identifying 'high-priority' locations for engagement: 

  • Hazards for people or critical City infrastructure
  • Hindering a construction or City maintenance project
  • Creating 100% ADA blockages of sidewalks
  • Significantly impacting use of Parks by all community members

When City departments have prioritized a location, the HOPE Team coordinates outreach efforts at the location with the goal of resolving the site through outreach strategies alone. If a site cannot be resolved through outreach alone, the site may move to an encampment removal process under the MDARs.

The HOPE Team does not carry out the operations of an encampment removal. In addition to 'high-priority' sites, the HOPE Team coordinates requests for outreach from community and City departments, among others. These include sites where an individual may need extra support connecting to services or where an encampment needs support to be good neighbors within the community.

The HOPE Team triages requests for outreach in the following order:

  1. Requests for support for vulnerable individuals
  2. Requests for outreach to high-priority sites
  3. Requests for neighborhood concerns regarding behaviors impacting an encampment's relationship with its neighbors

No. The HOPE Team coordinates outreach services and shelter referrals. Removals are led by City departments that either own or manage public property.

Hotel-Based Shelter FAQ

Referrals into these beds will based on COVID Prioritization Tiers which factors:

  • Age,
  • Medical Conditions,
  • Race & Ethnicity, and
  • Pregnancy.

Medical Conditions include:

  • Diabetes,
  • Heart Disease,
  • Kidney Disease,
  • Lung Disease,
  • Sickle Cell Disease,
  • Weakened Immune Systems, or

Individuals of any race and ethnicity disproportionately represented in the homeless system & disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 related to risk of acquisition and severity of disease as captured by the Point in Time Count, HMIS & King County Public Health COVID-19 Data Single or Multi-Racial Identity:

  • American Indian / Alaska Native,
  • Black / African-American,
  • Hispanic / Latinx,
  • Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander, or
  • Multi-Race with any of the aforementioned.

The Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) led this search, conducting outreach to almost 100 hotels and ended up with a short list of nine hotel operators that were viable and willing to discuss our program. After site visits, the City ultimately pursued two hotels that were the best fit for the program.

The hotel-based shelters are connected to a range of permanent housing options including dedicated Rapid Re-Housing (also funded by ESG-CV) and permanent supportive housing (PSH), depending on client needs. The hundreds of new PSH coming online this year will provide additional capacity and throughput for sheltering programs, particularly for the high-acuity persons referred to hotel-based shelter.

Priority will be given to recommendations from 'high-priority' locations when there are multiple recommendations on the next highest tier for referral.

If a tier size exceeds the available shelter units, case conferencing with outreach providers will be used to identify which households within that tier will receive prioritization first.

Executive Hotel Pacific and Kings Inn do not have ADA-compliant rooms. The City is exploring options for a third hotel and is taking into consideration ADA accessibility.

As with all shelters, the HOPE Team will work with providers to match available shelter resources with individual service needs.

Like all shelter programs, the onsite providers will coordinate care for individuals who have medical conditions.

The HOPE Team is working with contracted outreach providers to improve information sharing and data collection processes through the use of new technology with a focus on privacy protections.

During the course of the hotel pilot program, through regular meetings, the HOPE Team will continue to engage with providers to ensure transparency is part of the referral process.

The hotels will open as shelters at the end of March 2021 and are leased for 12 months, including one month for ramp-up and one month for ramp-down.

The hotel-based shelters have capacity for over 200 individuals experiencing homelessness.

Like other HOPE Team set-aside beds, hotel shelter bed availability will be listed daily (Monday - Friday) using a program called Chatbox, which is accessible by cellphone.

The HOPE Team will work with hotel shelters to find solutions if an individual needs more support than the hotel shelter is able to provide.

The HOPE Team will be compiling a by-name list based on the COVID Prioritization Tiers from recommendations by outreach providers. The by-name list ensures there are multiple individuals pre-assessed for when beds come open.

Hotel-Based Shelters referrals will be based on COVID Prioritization; however other vulnerabilities identified as part shelter assessments by outreach providers may be taken into consideration when making a service match.