When snowstorms were seen in downtown Seattle on Thursday, the city announced it would open two community centers as 24-hour storm shelters for people living outside.
These will bring the city to 164 as temperatures are expected to drop below freezing in the first winter weather emergency of the year.
Along with 78 shelters that opened Tuesday evening at Fisher Pavilion, 305 Harrison St., the city will open additional beds Thursday evening through Monday morning. 45 will be at the Bitter Lake Community Center, 13035 Linden Ave N., and 41 spaces will be at the Garfield Community Center, 2323 E. Cherry St. The Low Income Housing Institute, a nonprofit homeless service organization, will operate both emergency shelters with support from City Staff and Operation Sack Lunch, a nonprofit homeless service provider, provide daily meals.
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Thursday night is expected to be the coldest of the week as temperatures drop below freezing to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezing temperatures and at least 3 to 6 inches of snow are also expected Friday and Saturday, with higher sums possible in Seattle depending on the wind.
These winds are expected to be cold and stormy throughout the weekend.
The snow is expected to wear off on Saturday evening, but experts expect a different weather system from Sunday through Monday.
An estimated 11,751 people are homeless in King County. More than 5,500 people live in cars, tents or other places that are not intended for human habitat. Last year, six people who were found homeless by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office died from causes of hypothermia.
The city announced that the fire department’s Health One van will conduct welfare checks on Thursday evening for those not in custody, as well as for city employees and outreach workers who are part of the Seattle Homeless Outreach and Provider Ecosystem team Parks and recreational vans are available.
On Tuesday evening, King County opened 25 male-only beds at its Fourth Avenue building and Jefferson Street at 420 Fourth Ave. in downtown Seattle. The county extended this shelter’s opening hours until Monday morning. 16 men stayed there on Tuesday and 15 the next evening.
Only 27 people were housed in the Fisher Pavilion Shelter on Tuesday evening, although that number had risen to 34 on Wednesday evening.
The Garfield Community Center and Fisher Pavilion were already used as shelters last year when city, county and homeless services organizations began moving residents from crowded shelters to new locations to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission . Officials use the same socially distant protocols such as screening for symptoms, requiring masks, and keeping sleeping places within two meters.
Snohomish County has also opened four severe weather shelters: 3001 Oakes Ave., in Everett; Winter Shelter from Everett United Church of Christ, 2624 Rockefeller Ave., Everett; Maple Park Church, 17620 60th Ave. W., at Lynnwood; and Evergreen State Fairgrounds Park, 14405 179th Ave. SE, in Monroe.