Mayor Durkan Employs New Measures to Reduce Exposure of COVID-19 to Our Neighbors Experiencing Homelessness

Seattle (March 5, 2020) – Following Tuesday’s Proclamation of Civil Emergency, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan unveiled new measures in the City of Seattle to prepare for the potential spread of COVID-19 amongst individuals experiencing homelessness by increasing shelter resources during this public health emergency.

“We know we need to take additional measures to bring more of our unsheltered community inside. Our neighbors experiencing homelessness are at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19, and as a City, region, and Country we must act with urgency to address the ongoing impacts of this public health crisis,” said Mayor Durkan. “Working in partnership with public health officials and King County, we will continue to work with providers to help individuals currently in our shelters as well as expand shelter locations and resources for our most vulnerable individuals.”

The goal of this expansion is to increase shelter capacity for Seattle’s vulnerable unsheltered populations living in unsafe encampments, which are at elevated risks from public health concerns, including infectious diseases. At this time, the City is not expecting any of these sites to be quarantine or isolation sites. HSD will follow direction from Public Health Seattle King County (PHSKC) to determine medical needs and agency support required to safely and effectively operate these new resources in relation to COVID-19.  All locations will be accompanied with ongoing services, staffing, and support.

The City locations, which will take 2-3 weeks to make operational, will add capacity for up to 100 individuals. The locations are:

  • Lake Union Tiny House Village: Expansion of the current tiny home village by up to 20 units. 
  • New Cherry Hill Church Tiny House Village: The City expects capacity to be 30 units.
  • Former Treatment Facility: Former Evergreen Treatment Facility in the Bitter Lake neighborhood with capacity for up to 50 people.

The City’s Department of Neighborhoods will engage the community to identify immediate neighborhood needs as the sites are opened.

Separately, King County announced several locations across the county to serve as quarantine, isolation and/or recovery sites for people who are not able to use their homes for this purpose. The City is partnering with King County on standing up these shelters. These include people traveling, people who cannot be at home, and those who are homeless.  Sites are located in White Center, Kent, Interbay, and North Seattle. This will create capacity for approximately 213 individuals. At this time, no COVID-19 patients are currently occupying any of the sites.  King County is continuing to seek additional sites across the region.

The City will seek funding from the State of Washington and federal emergency sources to stand up and operate these shelters. The City is committed to bringing these important shelter resources online and operating these programs throughout the COVID-19 response and potentially beyond to meet the needs of vulnerable people living outdoors. Note, the City can stand up 500 additional emergency shelter spaces in 24 to 48 hours, as seen with recent winter storm responses. The City will evaluate this option in consultation with PHSCK as the situation evolves.

The City is continuing to explore avenues for opening additional shelters in the weeks ahead and is working with other government agencies to identify resources and locations.  Any new shelter expansion would require funding support from state and federal sources.