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New shelter in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood to house 55 people amid pandemic

Paula Wissel
King County modular housing in Seattle's Interbay neighborhood.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, cities and counties have worked to prevent the spread of the disease in crowded homeless shelters. King County already has moved 600 shelter residents into hotels and has set up isolation and quarantine sites for people who are ill or have been exposed to the virus.


The county’s latest effort is a temporary modular shelter constructed on a vacant lot in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood.

The facility was in the works before the pandemic. But, because of the virus and the need for social distancing, it will house 55 residents rather than the 76 it was intended for.

Wedged between the railroad tracks and the busy Elliott Avenue West, the structures look more like a row of storage units than a housing complex from the outside. But when you get closer, you see windows and doors that indicate bathrooms and showers. And there’s a bright light-filled common room where meals will be served three times a day.

In the way of amenities, the new shelter has an outdoor deck area and even a dog run. Unlike some shelters, people can bring their pets here.

King County Executive Dow Constantine says a main priority will be making it possible for people to socially distance.

“So we’ll stagger the serving of meals and counseling sessions and access to things like the laundry and the showers,” Constantine said during a media tour of the site.

One thing that makes this shelter unique is that the modular buildings, which cost about $3 million, can be picked up and moved to another location. They are, however, expected to remain at the current site for two years. The land is owned by King County.


News King CountyCoronavirus CoverageCOVID-19homeless shelter
Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.