One-time Emergency Resources Provide a Surge of New Short-term Shelter Plus Increased Rapid-Rehousing and Diversion Funds Supplementing Nearly 600 New Permanent Supportive Housing Units Coming On-line in 2021
Seattle (October 1) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today announced her proposal to move hundreds of people living unsheltered into safer spaces as part of her 2021 budget. By using COVID-related, one-time funds, Mayor Durkan is proposing to open 425 short-term shelter beds then surge investment in housing support programs like diversion and rapid-rehousing. Next year, the City also expects an additional 600 units of permanent supportive housing to come online next year. The Mayor’s 2021 Proposed Budget also continues supporting approximately 2,300 spaces, investments in hygiene, support for permanent supportive housing, and resources for diversion and rapid rehousing.
“With new one-time federal funding, the City can surge short term emergency shelter and ensure individuals then have connections to housing. This record investment means hundreds of people will come in from the street over the coming months, protecting them from COVID-19,” said Mayor Durkan. “From deploying hygiene resources to adding new and safer shelters that accommodate public health guidelines to expanded testing, our actions have saved lives and limited the outbreak among people experiencing homelessness compared to other major cities. As we enter the second year of the pandemic, we will continue to make the necessary investments to protect our most vulnerable communities, especially as we continue our current resources and bring permanent supportive housing online.”
Surge to Housing Plan
Since 2017, the City has worked to add additional investments for 24/7 spaces and tiny home villages. In 2017, the City had 964 basic shelter beds, 749 enhanced shelter spaces, and 255 spaces at sanctioned encampments. In 2020, the City now has 514 basic shelter spaces, 1518 enhanced and 311 tiny homes. During COVID-19, the City has taken a series of actions to create new safety and health measures including physical distancing at its shelters.
Since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, the City has been able to secure critical one-time COVID-specific funding resources from Federal and State sources to address housing and homelessness during COVID-19. Understanding this funding is a one-time resource, Mayor Durkan is proposing a surge to housing plan to bring individuals inside then transition to housing through increased investments in rapid rehousing and diversion.
During 2021, the City will invest over $31 million in one-time COVID-19 funding and an additional $2.75 million in ongoing funding to sustain existing and stand-up new emergency shelters geared towards reducing the spread of COVID-19, and to assist people to move from shelter to permanent housing through increased funding available for rapid rehousing and diversion.
These resources are in addition to the City‘s recent announcement of $11.6 million to help service providers defray costs incurred in the early days of the pandemic and sustain existing shelters during 2020. This builds on the City‘s efforts this spring, when HSD and partners opened 95 new units of shelter at tiny house villages and enhanced shelter and created additional redistributed spaces at Seattle Center. The 2021 budget builds on that work by expanding the City’s ability to respond to the pandemic through increasing shelter by as much as 425 beds and creating new opportunities for 360 households to move from homeless to housed:
- Leasing up to 300 hotel units
- Making 125 units of enhanced, 24/7 shelter available
- Increasing Rapid Rehousing to exit 231 households from homelessness
- Increasing Diversion to support 130 more households find safer places
The Mayor’s proposal will need City Council approval as part of the 2021 budget process. In addition, Mayor Durkan recently announced new investments to create 600 units of permanent housing – in record time – by 2021.
Outreach & Shelter Coordination
In Mayor Durkan’s Proposed 2021 budget, HSD will continue to oversee the City’s contracted outreach network, which will be critical in helping connect vulnerable people living unsheltered to existing and new shelter beds. This centralized role ensures outreach and shelter operators are coordinated effectively.
“We have the opportunity to connect hundreds of people to safer spaces next year, but this work won’t happen on its own and the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) is not in a position to take up this work yet,” said Jason Johnson, director of Seattle Human Services Department. “HSD manages dozens of contracts with service providers. Some agencies only provide outreach services, others provide both outreach and shelter, and others only operate shelter or housing. All of these contracts will remain with HSD until the KCHRA is up and running. Because of this, the City will continue to lead in this space by playing a centralized role coordinating efforts between community partners. No one community organization has the ability nor contractual authority to direct or manage other agencies—it’s the City’s responsibility until the KCHRA can take on that work in the future.”
The KCRHA is scheduled to become fully operational in 2021. With this timeline, HSD will retain staff in the Homelessness Strategies and Investments Division, originally slated to sunset with the start of the KCRHA, to ensure service providers have a point of contact in the next fiscal year and that there are no gaps in critical services.