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Seattle City Council Mulls Pilot Programs To Fight Family Homelessness

When you’re a homeless person, finding shelter isn’t easy. But when you’re a homeless family, especially a family with a dad, the options are even more limited.

For Seattle’s homeless families with a male head of household, there are few choices for temporary shelter. There are hotel vouchers and encampments, but otherwise families are split. Women and children go off to one shelter, men end up elsewhere.

This year the Seattle City Council helped fund a new type of homeless shelter, called a congregate model, where families can stay together. As the council prepares for the 2015 budget, council members are reviewing a handful of pilot programs to fight family homelessness.  

Marty Hartman runs the new shelter called Bianca’s Place.

“Families come in at 5 p.m. and are able to get meals, do homework, tutoring. There’s a complete children’s program. Everybody goes to bed — lights out at 9,” Hartman said.

Families stay at Bianca’s place for up to a few months. During that time, they can get support in the search for permanent housing. Council member Sally Clark says family homelessness is complex and requires flexibility.

“People are homeless for different reasons, and they’re going to get out of homelessness in different ways with different types of support,” Clark said. “And so for some people, I think we need to continue to fund the private spaces. But Bianca’s Place is proving that are folks who are good with the congregate model.  They like the community that comes from it.  It makes them feel safe.”

Bianca’s Place serves 30 families at a time from its South Lake Union location.