Homelessness | KNKX

Homelessness

In this January 2020 file photo, tents are pictured inside a homeless encampment in Olympia.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Port of Olympia officials and Thurston County sheriff’s deputies displaced an estimated eight unsheltered people from a wooded Tumwater property on Monday, sparking objections from activists concerned “sweeps” of camps add pressure to a shelter system already strained by the coronavirus pandemic. 

In this file photo from March, a man carrying a sleeping bag looks at a sign on the door of the Bread of Life Mission in Seattle's downtown Pioneer Square neighborhood. COVID-19 cases have risen in King County’s homeless population throughout the summer.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

UPDATE, Aug. 26: King County public health officials say one person has died in connection with the Harborview Hall outbreak. The man, who was in his 70s, died Aug. 7 and had "underlying medical conditions," public health officials said. The King County Medical Examiner's Office lists COVID-19 as one of the causes of death.  

In this photo taken March 23, 2017, outreach worker Brenda Frazier, left, walks with Seattle police officers Tori Newborn, right, and Wes Phillips past tents housing homeless people below a freeway next to downtown Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Budget changes in Seattle could upend how the city responds to encampments of people living outside in tents and makeshift houses.

This week, a majority of City Council members voted to remove funding from the city's three-year-old Navigation Team, which is made up of police officers and outreach workers who respond to encampments. Members of the team disband or "sweep" encampments while also trying to connect the people displaced with shelter and other services.

Nativity House, operated by the nonprofit Catholic Community Services, recorded the first known COVID-19 cases in Washington's homeless population in March.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Two Tacoma shelters that disclosed the first known cases of COVID-19 in Washington's homeless population have avoided widespread outbreaks and now appear virus-free, the shelters' operators said.

Nativity House, operated by the nonprofit Catholic Community Services, had four guests test positive for the coronavirus in March, raising fears that the virus could spread quickly through a population that shares sleeping and living spaces. 

Ashley Gross / KNKX

In recent years, students experiencing homelessness or housing instability in Washington have numbered in the tens of thousands. A new survey shows that many of those students are struggling with basic needs amid the pandemic.

A Red Lion Hotel in Renton that now houses 200 people from Downtown Emergency Service Center shelters in Seattle.
Facebook / Red Lion Hotel & Conference Center

Counties and nonprofits have moved hundreds of people out of the region's crowded homeless shelters and into individual hotel rooms.

It's a temporary step meant to prevent an outbreak of the novel coronavirus. But some shelter operators say they already see added benefits, and the possibility of permanent changes to the shelter system.

Swedish Medical Center has launched a mobile COVID-19 testing clinic for people staying in homeless shelters or living in Plymouth Housing buildings.
Will James / KNKX

Four people staying in King County shelters have tested positive for COVID-19, county officials said, signaling the first signs of the novel coronavirus in the Seattle area's homeless population. 

The four people were staying in at least three different shelters, according to a news release Saturday by health officials in King County.

Nativity House, operated by the nonprofit Catholic Community Services, recorded the first known COVID-19 cases in Washington's homeless population in March.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

A Tacoma homeless shelter has had four residents test positive for the novel coronavirus, so far the largest publicly disclosed outbreak in Washington state's homeless population.

In this January 2020 file photo, tents are pictured inside a homeless encampment in Olympia.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Editor's note: This reporting is the result of a partnership between KNKX's Will James, host of the Outsiders podcast,  and the team of Transmission — a new podcast about life at the center of an epidemic. Listen to Episode 3: Houseless and subscribe.  

The first publicly disclosed cases of novel coronavirus in the U.S. homeless population emerged this week, as local governments and nonprofits rushed to prevent the virus from spreading to tens of thousands of people living outside or in shelters on the West Coast.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Homelessness on the West Coast is rising to crisis levels at a time of historic economic growth and prosperity. Why? KNKX Public Radio and The Seattle Times' Project Homeless spent one year in a city that’s grappling with homelessness. What’s it like to live outside for months on end? What’s it like when tents come to your neighborhood? What new solutions can city leaders find?

This is Outsiders.

Outsiders is available wherever you listen to podcasts. Subscribe now so you don't miss the first episode debuting Jan. 29.

Tents under an overpass in Seattle
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Communities across the state will fan out this week to count people experiencing homelessness. The yearly point-in-time count is one tool local leaders use to measure the scope of the homelessness crisis.

Gov. Jay Inslee proposes $300 million in new funding for homeless services.
Will James / KNKX

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says he has a plan to cut the number of unsheltered homeless people in the state by half in two years.

The $300 million proposal would take money out of the state's "rainy day" fund. It would require approval from state lawmakers, whose session begins next month. 

Tents under an overpass in Seattle
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

A plan to create a new homelessness authority serving Seattle and King County cleared a key vote Thursday. But tensions over how the new authority will be governed could delay the creation of the agency into the new year.

West Coast cities, including Seattle and Portland, have had states of emergency in place around homelessness for several years. But many of those declarations are open-ended, lacking definitions of what it would take to end the crisis.

Tacoma City Council members settled on such a definition last week.

One issue in the system of services for those near or experiencing homelessness is inefficiency. A Denver-based developer is hoping his app can help solve that problem, and some service providers in Seattle are starting to experiment with it.

The City of Tacoma will be establishing a shelter site in the Hilltop neighborhood for people who are experiencing homelessness. 

The City Council voted Tuesday night to approve the emergency resolution.  It will provide "micro shelter units" next month for people who are currently camped nearby in People's Park. 

Candidates for Olympia mayor, Nathaniel Jones and Cheryl Selby, speak to voters at a forum on Oct. 17, 2019, at Garfield Elementary School.
Will James / KNKX

Homelessness is at the top of many voters’ minds across the Puget Sound region heading into the Nov. 5 general election.

A few years ago, frustration around the issue might have been contained in Seattle — where nearly two-thirds of residents disapprove of the response by Washington’s largest city, according to a recent poll by Crosscut and Elway.

Courtesy of C4 Innovations

Assessments that determine who gets help with homelessness sometimes prioritize white people over people of color, according to a study based in part on data from King and Pierce counties.

The results spurred one Seattle nonprofit to call for communities around the country to rethink how they triage people seeking help with housing. 

The Fourth Avenue Bridge encampment, as it was seen this summer before a number of residents left amid plans for a sweep.
Courtesy of the City of Olympia

Olympia City Council members canceled a sweep of a homeless encampment hours before it was scheduled to begin Wednesday morning, a victory for camp residents who waged a last-ditch effort to remain in place.

The decision came amid an outcry from residents of the encampment and their supporters, and assurances from leaders of a local church that they would help oversee the site.

Tents under an overpass in Seattle
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Seattle and King County leaders are taking a big step toward combining their response to homelessness. The mayor and county executive on Wednesday put forward legislation to create a new regional homelessness authority.

news that informs graphic
Adrian Florez / KNKX

Thanks in part to gifts from companies such as Amazon and Microsoft, Seattle-based Plymouth Housing is on its way to raising millions of dollars for hundreds of units of permanent supportive housing.

The nonprofit developer announced Tuesday it has raised $48.8 million toward a $75 million goal to build 800 units of permanent supportive housing over the next several years.

Dr. Hanna Eckstrom gives Ripper an eye exam. Her nonprofit, Seattle Veterinary Outreach, treats pets of the homeless.
Shauna Sowersby / KNKX

Things are moving fast for Dr. Hanna Ekström.

Only five months after getting her nonprofit license, Ekström has treated more than a hundred pets from the back of her mobile veterinarian unit — all while running her own private practice. She started Seattle Veterinary Outreach in December to treat pets of the homeless in her spare time.

news that informs graphic
Adrian Florez / KNKX

In recent years, there's been a big jump in the number of public school students experiencing homelessness in Washington. More than 40,000 students were identified as homeless in the 2016-17 school year, an increase of more than 30 percent from the 2012-13 school year.

A new performance audit from the state auditor's office recommends ways that school districts could do more to help those students, who often suffer significant academic setbacks due to their lack of stable housing.

Paul Ambros, chief executive of Plymouth Housing, speaks on May 15, 2019. He's surrounded by Mike Butler (left), a senior executive at Providence St. Joseph Health; Swedish chief executive Guy Hudson; and Premera Blue Cross chief executive Jeffrey Roe.
Will James / KNKX

Three of the Seattle region's largest health care organizations have announced a $15 million effort to fight chronic homelessness, framing the region's housing woes as a health care crisis that strains providers and raises costs throughout the medical system. 

news that informs graphic
Adrian Florez / KNKX

Tacoma's homeless shelters turn away more than 130 people each day due to a lack of beds, city officials say. 

Tacoma's leaders hope to ease that shortage by expanding one of the city's most well-known shelters. City Council members agreed this week to spend $1.6 million renovating a warehouse at the Tacoma Rescue Mission into space for 50 more beds. 

Will James / KNKX

Tacoma has invested millions of dollars in a sanctioned encampment where caseworkers act to move people from homelessness to housing. 

With funding for the "stability site" set to run out at the end of the year, city officials are now weighing the program's cost and effectiveness as they consider how, and whether, to keep it open. 

Will James / KNKX

Results from Pierce County's annual census of the homeless population show a striking, but familiar, pattern around race. 

Will James / KNKX

How tense is the debate around homelessness in Olympia? Enough that business owners have sought to conceal their identities in a lawsuit against the city, saying they fear "retribution" from activists.

Eleven business owners sued the city late last year in a bid to halt the opening of a sanctioned encampment for unsheltered people.

Will James / KNKX

Years of rising rents and worsening homelessness have made housing a central topic in this year’s state legislative session.

The issue has gained urgency, and the attention of a broader swath of legislators, as housing problems have spilled out of Seattle into smaller cities from Tacoma to Aberdeen to Ellensburg. 

Lawmakers in Olympia are moving ahead with an array of reforms designed to stabilize housing markets and strengthen protections for tenants. 

Will James / KNKX

The City of Olympia, which saw a striking rise in visible homelessness last year, cleared away the last of its large unsanctioned downtown encampments Tuesday after resuming enforcement against illegal camping in late January.

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