Here's how Seattle is helping the homeless during the coronavirus pandemic

Mar 30 2020, 2:06 pm

Seattle’s homelessness crisis has many roots including mental health and addiction, economic disparity and poverty, lack of affordable housing, racial disparities, the criminal justice system, and decentralized response to a regional crisis.

According to the Seattle government, those without homes are currently at risk of contracting and carrying COVID-19, which is why the government and response teams have been working with homeless service providers to reduce the potential for widespread transmission.

Services include onsite assessment, infection control guidance, and connecting homeless service providers to options that reduce the number of people in any particular shelter.

To create more physical space between individuals, which can help to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the King County Department of Community and Human Services has been renting hotel rooms across the region for people currently staying in high-capacity shelters. This is in addition to creating new spaces for people experiencing homelessness.

“We are committed to the proposition that no one will be left behind. Not the old, not the sick, not those who are living in homelessness. We are all in this together, and we have to get each other through it. That is what our community expects, and that is what we will do,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine, in a statement.

In the coming weeks, in addition to the 1,893 new spaces created this month, the City of Seattle will be creating 95 new spaces for people experiencing homelessness in Bitter Lake, Cherry Hill Tiny Home Village, and the Lake Union Village Expansion. These spaces will be exclusively for unsheltered individuals referred by outreach providers.

King County has also created isolation and quarantine sites at the Kent Motel, North Seattle modulars, Harborview Hall, White Center modulars, and Issaquah motel. De-intensifying shelters are being created at Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center, Garfield Community Center, Miller Community Center, SW Teen Life Community Center, Loyal Heights Community Center, Exhibition Hall at Seattle Center, King County Airport, Harbor Island, and Congregation for the Homeless in Bellevue.

To date, public health has received notification of one positive coronavirus case among 77 tests conducted by the Seattle Flu Study.

Separate from the study, public health has learned of three additional shelter locations with one confirmed case each. Additional information is not being publicly released at this time to protect the privacy of the individuals, shelter staff, and clients.

Public health is following up with all the affected facilities to conduct a clinical assessment of their residents and ensure infection control is being followed.

Homeless individuals who’ve tested positive and need isolation will be provided free transportation to isolation and quarantine beds at a former hotel in Issaquah, in addition to facilities at the Kent Motel and modular units in Seattle.

Medical personnel are providing monitoring of the infected individuals, as well as meals, snacks, and a cash value card.

Once the individuals recover, they are provided free transport back to their city of origin.

Alyssa TherrienAlyssa Therrien

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