Mayor Supports Councilmember Lewis Legislation, City to Add Additional Hotel for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness

New Legislation Will Allow for More Opportunities to Continue to Leverage New Federal Funding Part of American Rescue Plan  

Two New Hotels to Begin Accepting Referrals in March   

SEATTLE (March 15, 2021) – With new legislation under consideration by City Council and the passage of the American Rescue Plan, the City of Seattle announced it has identified a third hotel for sheltering individuals experiencing homelessness as another component of the City’s ongoing COVID-19 response. Councilmember Andrew Lewis’s legislation will allow the City more flexibility for an emergency shelter funding plan to be considered by the City Council in the coming weeks, following the passage of the American Rescue Plan which provides new resources to the City for homelessness. As the City has done since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency, the City will seek reimbursement by FEMA for eligible expenses through September 30, 2021, and will support other expenses with the American Rescue Plan or the 2022 budget process.  

“Bringing more people inside is both the right thing to do and critical for our emergency response. As Mayor, we have invested an unprecedented level of resources for enhanced shelter, tiny homes, diversion, rapid rehousing, and permanent housing; yet we know the City has never been able to scale to the crisis alone, especially as the City is serving many individuals who were living outside of Seattle when they became homeless. I appreciate Councilmember Lewis’s commitment to providing additional funds to address the homelessness crisis that will allow us to further leverage federal resources in the American Rescue Plan,” said Mayor Durkan who has been working with other Mayors, HUD leadership, and FEMA to address funding challenges. “We will continue to use every option available to the City from new federal funds to current city resources to new commitments by county, state, business, and philanthropy to address unmet needs on housing, shelter, and behavioral health. If we want to address the crises of homelessness and a once-in-a-generation pandemic, we will need a region-wide focus to move more people into safer places.”  

“Whether or not we are able to provide people living unsheltered with a safe, attractive alternative to sleeping in public spaces will be the single most important factor in Seattle’s economic recovery, its cultural recovery, and it’s psychological recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic,” Councilmember Lewis said. “President Joe Biden is demonstrating the importance of competent national leadership, and as federal money begins to flow to states it is imperative we as City officials rise to meet the challenge he has laid before us: To build our cities back better so that everyone living in Seattle is granted that absolute human right to a warm bed in a room they can call their own. I am grateful for the Mayor’s leadership to stand up an additional hotel shelter for people living unhoused and her commitment to leveraging every federal and local resource available to scale emergency shelter.” 

Ahead of City Council’s consideration of federal funding from the American Rescue Plan, this legislation would allow the flexibility of using City funds to leverage additional federal resources for an additional shelter such as a tiny home village or hotel. Last year, the City used one-time federal funding including the Coronavirus Relief Fund, Emergency Services Grant, and is currently seeking FEMA reimbursement for eligible COVID-related expenses to provide resources and services for individuals experiencing homelessness.  

In the coming weeks, Mayor Durkan will be working with the City Council and Executive Constantine to propose a plan for new federal funding through the American Rescue Plan that was signed into law on March 11, 2021. Mayor Durkan’s plan will include a robust package for residents, small businesses, economic recovery and unmet needs in our community including vaccinations and assistance for individuals experiencing homelessness. The American Rescue Plan includes direct funding for local governments including the City of Seattle and King County. In addition, within the next 30 days, the City expects to receive additional guidance and allocation from HUD for funding from the Federal HOME program as well as guidance regarding emergency Housing Choice vouchers.  

Third Temporary Hotel  

The legislation by Councilmember Andrew Lewis will allow the City to quickly finance the costs of renting an additional hotel, which is expected to cost at least $5 million depending on the size of the hotel, services offered, and individuals served. The City would continue to seek FEMA reimbursement for eligible expenses and use additional federal funding.  

The City has already identified a third potential hotel through a competitive procurement process and will begin contracting negotiations. The City will continue moving forward with identifying a service provider to operate the facility.   

With these new City funds and new federal funding available in the upcoming American Rescue Plan, the Mayor will propose millions of dollars to cover non-eligible FEMA expenses such as case management, behavioral health services, and mental health services, rapid rehousing resources to exit individuals to permanent housing, and the costs of extending the hotel beyond September 30, 2021, the date FEMA eligible hoteling expenses currently expire.  

Until new guidance is issued, currently FEMA will not reimburse expenses for the enhanced services needed at the shelters. Mayor Durkan, together with other Mayors, has met with the White House and HUD leadership to urge that HUD and FEMA give local government more flexibility to address the crisis and that they issue new rules allowing reimbursements to the City for enhanced services at hotels and other shelters.  

Opening of Two Temporary Hotel Shelters  

Two hotels—the Kings Inn in Belltown and the Executive Hotel Pacific downtown—will open and begin accepting referrals over the next two weeks and serve as temporary 24/7 enhanced shelters.   

The Chief Seattle Club (CSC) will operate a 24/7 enhanced hotel shelter at the Kings Inn, providing 66 non-congregate hotel rooms with wraparound services on site. CSC will provide case management and housing navigation services to help American Indian/Alaska Natives facing high barriers find housing. CSC is expected to begin referrals on March 29, 2021. 

The Executive Hotel Pacific, which has been previously utilized as a COVID-19 recovery space for first responders, will also open as a 24/7 hotel-based enhanced shelter. The program is projected to utilize up to 155 non-congregate hotel rooms. Low Income Housing Institute will provide case management and housing navigation services designed to meet the needs of people facing barriers to housing with an expected opening date on March 24, 2021.   

The hotels are leased for 12 months, including two months for ramp-up and ramp-down. The City’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) oversaw the procurement and contracting process, working with the Human Services Department (HSD) to identify key program needs. This includes hotel size and location; floor plans for rooms and common areas; cost; COVID-19 safety; speed of program activation; and facility maintenance.  

New Tiny House Villages  

Three new tiny home villages were approved as part of the 2021 budget and are being procured through a process that will allow reimbursement for eligible expenses.   

A new tiny house village in the University District will be operated by LIHI and is expected to provide up to 40 tiny houses. The village is on Sound Transit property that the agency will later develop into transit-oriented development. The village will open as soon as April, pending finalizing lease and service agreements. The second village, also anticipated to hold up to 40 units, will be located in North Seattle and is on a similar schedule for opening in Spring.  

The City is actively reviewing additional locations for its third tiny home village that is fully funded in 2021.   

While open to any individual experiencing homelessness, the City will seek reimbursement on any FEMA-eligible expenses. The City has been seeking FEMA reimbursement on tiny home villages open last year during the pandemic.  

New 24/7 Enhanced Shelter Open  

On February 12, a new shelter for women opened at the First Presbyterian Church, adding 60 new shelter beds. The City funds this shelter through Catholic Community Services, which sub-contracts operations to Women’s Housing, Equality and Enhancement League (WHEEL). The shelter began as an overnight shelter during February’s snowstorms and is converting to 24/7 enhanced shelter for women experiencing homelessness. Case management and housing navigation services will be provided.  

Rapid Re-housing and Permanent Supportive Housing  

In addition to permanent supportive housing coming online this year, the temporary hotel programs are supported by robust rapid re-housing resources, which are projected to serve up to 230 households to exit individuals into permanent housing. The Mayor will look to expand the use of both rapid rehousing and housing choice vouchers with new additional federal funding.  

 
Referrals   

Referrals to these new shelter resources will be coordinated by the HSD’s Homelessness Outreach and Provider Ecosystem (HOPE) Team. The announcement of new shelter resources coincides with enhancements to the shelter referral process made in collaboration with the City’s contracted outreach and shelter service providers to improve the efficiency and accuracy of service connections. The HOPE Team will work closely with service providers to provide technical assistance to match persons currently living unsheltered to shelter and housing programs that best meet their needs.