A hotel for homeless people opens in downtown Seattle today; here’s a look inside

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A hotel for homeless people opens in downtown Seattle today; here’s a look inside

It’s been more than a year after the pandemic tore downtown tourism to pieces and forced many Seattle homeless shelters to empty or move, but on Wednesday the city will draw on a strategy that brings these two issues together: Homeless people accommodate hotels.

Almost 140 people will move into the historic Executive Hotel Pacific in the city center from Wednesday. They join more than 800 people staying at hotels across the county, many of which moved in last year. Next week the Kings Inn will open to a smaller group of homeless people.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan toured the hotel, which was built nearly 100 years ago in the 1920s, on Tuesday and checked hotel rooms that had become case manager offices, food preparation areas and suites for people outside of the city for the past three weeks USA were rebuilt road.

“We know how difficult it has been for people living with homelessness, and people in every community, to see the increase in the number of people being homeless,” Durkan said. “And we need to have solutions that get people in and ensure that community parks and sidewalks are restored to public use when we reopen and restore our economies. And those two things don’t have to work against each other. You have to work in harmony with one another. “

Converted into a shelter, this hotel cost $ 8.3 million in food, 24/7 security, and Low Income Housing Institute staff. Residents of this and the other hotel will have access to an additional $ 7 million through a rental voucher program to help them find a way to more permanent accommodation. Seattle officials are hoping that people unable to rent can get one of the estimated 600 permanent support housing units that will open later this year.

Why is Seattle opening hotel accommodations for the first time now, more than a year after the pandemic began? King County paid to move critically vulnerable homeless people out of crowded places at the start of the pandemic.

However, these new shelters are more likely to cope with the pile of tents in the neighborhoods. Hoteling the homeless is a reaction that business executives – who complained about homeless camps complaining about their ability to make money – and homeless lawyers can agree.

On Tuesday, Colleen Echohawk, who runs the nonprofit Chief Seattle Club for Native American homeless services and plans to replace Mayor Durkan this fall, urged the city to focus on a growing camping hot spot – Miller Playfield on North Capitol Hill – because the nearby Meany Middle School welcomes students in April.

“This is a humanitarian crisis that will not work for anyone,” Echohawk said in a press release calling on the city to accommodate the homeless in hotels. “It doesn’t work for the people in the tents. It doesn’t work for the nearby neighbors. It doesn’t work for the people who want to use the pitch, and it doesn’t work for the Meany community when school starts again. “

When asked about Miller Playfield, Durkan hinted that the city may have to react tougher.

“We actually worked at Miller for a long time – outreach staff and the like,” said Durkan. “And in the last four years it has been clear that we will often work in a warehouse and people will not want to accept services. At the same time, if they do not accept the services, sometimes you have to move the camp for public safety and health reasons. And that may be the case with Miller. “

These services are usually offered in the form of a referral to a shelter, but over the past year many homeless people have been reluctant to go to shelters because they feared contracting COVID-19. The city has made two high-profile warehouse moves in the past six months, but most are on hold during the pandemic due to federal public health guidelines.