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Seattle Faces Additional Shortage Of Homeless Shelter Space This Fall, Winter

Paul Sableman

More than 3,000 people were found sleeping outside in King County during the last one-night count of homeless people in January. And come fall and winter, the lack of emergency shelter space may worsen in Seattle. 

Two separate incidents could contribute to the shortage. First, Plymouth Church – United Church of Christ in downtown Seattle won’t be able to offer emergency shelter to about 50 women from October through December, as it has in past years. The church in renovating its sanctuary, and is crunched for room. 

Also, the Millionair Club Charity has decided to use its office for job training in the evenings instead of a shelter for about 80 men. The nonprofit groups Compass Housing Alliance and Operation Nightwatch had been using Millionair Club’s building, free of charge, to provide the shelter for about six years. Rick Reynolds, executive director of Operation Nightwatch, says he’s now looking for a different space.

“We are fervently praying and hoping that we’ll find some alternative situation, and we’re just at the early stages of getting word out,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds says it can be tough to find new space for shelters due to concerns from nearby residents, and he says it can be tenuous relying on churches and nonprofits to share their space. Ideally, Reynolds says he wishes the city would build more dedicated emergency shelters.

City officials are aware of the situation. This Thursday, they’ll brief a city council committee about the shelter shortage.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.