Today, Mayor Ed Murray announced the creation of a new Navigation Team, comprised of outreach workers paired with specially trained Seattle Police Department (SPD) personnel, who will work to connect unsheltered people to housing and critical resources, while helping address pervasive challenges around the issue of homelessness in Seattle. The team will immediately begin working with unsheltered people who have urgent and acute unmet needs, and will serve as the primary access point for people to be served by the Navigation Center.
The Mayor also announced the City has reached an agreement to locate the Navigation Center at the Pearl Warren Building, at 606 12th Ave. S. The Navigation Center will be a 24-hour, low-barrier shelter designed to connect homeless individuals to services and transition them to permanent housing and will open to a limited number of people this spring. While the Navigation Center is being completed, the City will set up temporary sites to provide similar services.
“To best serve those living unsheltered in our community, our services must recognize the individuals currently left outside of our current system,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Some of our most vulnerable face mental health and addiction challenges, or have other individualized needs, such as partners, pets or possessions, that the Navigation Center is designed to address. This new approach to addressing the growing national homelessness crisis, which has impacted thousands here in Seattle, allows the City to fill a gap that has prevented many from accessing services and shelter.”
Distinguishing itself from current shelters in Seattle that have admittance restrictions, the Navigation Center’s harm reduction approach is modeled on the successful facilities in San Francisco. A planned dormitory-style living facility that provides shower, bathroom, and laundry facilities, as well as meals and a place to store their belongings, Seattle’s Navigation Center will be open 24/7 and welcomes pets, couples, and individuals currently struggling with addiction, though no drug use will be allowed on-site. Once fully open, the Navigation Center will serve up to 75 individuals at one time.
The City’s Human Services Department (HSD) has contracted with the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) to operate the center and offer supportive services and case management to quickly transition clients into housing. They also will work with clients needing healthcare, including substance abuse treatment and mental health services. Operation Sack Lunch will provide food and meals on site. To accommodate the specialized functions of the center, the City must make modifications to the building including: safety improvement, expanding shower and bathing facilities, and updating the space to allow pets, couples and storage for belongings.
While the renovations of the center are underway, HSD and DESC will setup temporary sites that will provide services similar to those that will be available at the Navigation Center. This includes assessments and referrals for housing, mental and physical health services.
The City will host community information sessions for those with questions about the center. Details will be announced in the coming weeks.
In addition to the Navigation Center, the City will begin deploying the new Navigation Team, to connect unsheltered individuals with existing services and shelter. The team will be staffed by contracted outreach workers and SPD personnel who have advanced certification in crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques. The purpose of the team’s approach is to bring more people inside and create faster resolutions to hazardous situations. They will begin working with unsheltered individuals who have urgent and acute unmet needs, including people who relocated from the I-5 East Duwamish Greenbelt. This new team will be the primary access point for people to be served by the Navigation Center.
“The Navigation Team will work with people living with the most severe challenges, such as ongoing opiate addiction or mental health issues,” said Mayor Murray. “This population of people living unsheltered are too often found in dire circumstances, in unauthorized encampments where they are more vulnerable to serious criminal activity. Our outreach must focus on these specific challenges to achieve the goal of moving people living unsheltered into stable, permanent housing and helping them get back on their feet.”