More Sweeps and More Shelter, But Little Housing for Seattle’s Homeless

Authorities continue to evict homeless campers, but permanent housing eludes most.

Seattle authorities keep sweeping homeless campers, but it’s still not clear that there’s anywhere for most of them to go.

On Monday, local authorities will evict campers from beneath the Spokane Street overpass in SoDo. Mayor Ed Murray’s stated goal for the sweeps is to encourage campers to accept outreach and come inside. Specifically, authorities are sending many evicted campers to the Navigation Center, a 24/7 dormitory/shelter with case-management services. A similar 100-bed shelter run by Compass Housing Alliance opened on Thursday, Aug. 31, at First Presbyterian Church.

The Navigation Center is supposed to rapidly cycle people off the street: Sweeps bring in homeless campers, then the Navigation Center outputs them into long-term housing. But as the 60-day deadline for housing its first cohort approaches, there’s no indication that the Navigation Center is rapidly cycling all that many people into permanent housing.

Located inside the Pearl Warren Building on 12th Avenue South, near the I-5/I-90 interchange, the Navigation Center opened on July 12, half a year later than Murray initially aimed for. Modeled on San Francisco’s own Navigation Center, Seattle’s is “a dormitory-style living facility that provides shower, bathroom, and laundry facilities, as well as meals and a place to store personal belongings,” as described by Seattle’s homelessness response blog. Critically, the Center can accommodate (some) pets, partners, and possessions, unlike overnight shelters. Things like pets and a desire to stay with partners has been cited as a barrier for many homeless people seeking shelter. The only way to enroll in the Navigation Center is to be referred by a cop or outreach worker on the city’s Navigation Team, which evicts unauthorized homeless encampments.

According to the city’s blog, between February 20 and August 11, the team “made 4,199 total contacts to a total of 1,157 individuals,” about four contacts per individual, on average. “Of those individuals, 721 [62 percent] accepted some sort of service, including 419 [36 percent] who relocated to alternative living arrangements.” A later post reads, “All 66 individuals found residing along Spokane Street from Airport Way to Colorado Avenue South were contacted multiple times.” Four people went to the authorized Georgetown encampment, one went to the Navigation Center, three went onto a shelter waitlist, five received medical attention, and a handful of others received other services.

City workers have been removing homeless people from the Spokane Street corridor for months. In April, after a fire beneath the corridor’s overpass, the Navigation Team evicted dozens of people living there inside automobiles or RVs.

Despite repeated requests, spokespeople for the Human Services Department (HSD) and its contractor, the Downtown Emergency Services Center (DESC), did not provide Seattle Weekly with statistics on how many people so far have entered the Navigation Center and exited into permanent housing. One Navigation Center participant, Jacqueline Martin, said that she knows of perhaps five participants who’ve found permanent housing so far.

“There have been a couple of housing successes from the original cohort,” agrees DESC spokesperson Greg Jensen, “but my understanding is that those were people who were working on housing kind of before they came into the Navigation Center.”

The 60-day deadline for moving Navigation Center participants into permanent housing isn’t “hard and fast,” says HSD spokesperson Meg Olberding. Moving homeless people into sustainable housing is “an art more than a science,” she says. The city is currently bidding out $30 million in homeless service contracts, says Olberding. According to Mayor Murray, this is the first time that’s happened in over a decade.

“The ongoing challenge of the Navigation Center will be to find housing in a community where we’re really challenged to find an adequate stock of affordable housing,” says Jensen. “But that’s what we’re working on, and we’re turning over as many rocks as we can.”

cjaywork@seattleweekly.com

Sara Bernard contributed to this story.

More in News & Comment

Mary Lynn Pannen, founder and CEO of Sound Options, has consulted thousands of Washington families on geriatric care for 30 years. Photo courtesy of Sound Options
Seattle Takes on Elder Abuse as Reported Cases Rise

Local agencies and geriatric care managers aim to increase public awareness about the epidemic.

The Ride2 transit app will offer on-demand rides to and from West Seattle starting on Dec. 17. Courtesy of King County Metro
Climate Action Coalition Urges City to Respond to Seattle Squeeze

MASS asks the city to prioritize reducing traffic and increasing pedestrian safety ahead of the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s closure.

State Supreme Court Strikes Down I-27; King County Will Pursue Safe Consumption Sites

The decision upholds a court ruling keeping the anti-consumption site initiative off the ballot.

Seattle’s Hockey Team And Stadium Are On Their Way

Key Arena renovations will be completed without the use of public funding

Seattle Municipal Court’s warrant outreach event on Nov. 30, 2017. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Seattle Takes Steps to Quash Warrants

City Attorney attempts to address inequities in criminal justice system and enhance public safety.

Andrea Bernard, Allycea Weil, and Phoenix Johnson (left to right) are Licton Springs K-8 parents who want their kids to stay in the Native-centered program. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Licton Springs K-8 Parents Dismayed by Potential School Move

The PTO says children have benefited from the Native-centered program, and that transferring the pupils would disrupt their progress.

The King County Courthouse. File photo
King County Council Acknowledges Report on Juvenile Solitary Confinement

Report also says youth of color face a disproportionate amount of disciplinary measures

Federal Way Megachurch Slapped With Another Sexual Exploitation Lawsuit

Lawsuit calls for removal of Casey and Wendy Treat, and CFO, from church leadership roles.

The Centralia Power Plant is a coal-burning plant owned by TransAlta which supplies 380 megawatts to Puget Sound Energy. It is located in Lewis County and slated to shut down by 2025. Aaron Kunkler/Staff Photo
National Report Outlines Climate Change’s Course For Northwest

More fires, floods and drought appear to be on their way for Washington state.

Mustafa Getahun and other Washington Federation of State Employees laundry workers picket University of Washington Medicine at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery on May 17, 2018. Photo courtesy of the Washington Federation of State Employees
University of Washington Laundry Workers Feel Hung Out to Dry

The Rainier Valley facility’s imminent closure leaves over 100 people looking for new jobs.