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Opinion: We need more support for the houseless in our community

If you haven’t noticed already, there is a staggering growth of houseless and resource insecure people throughout the city. Seattle has a scattering of shelters for youth and adults but a vastly limited amount of resources exist in the Capitol Hill area.

Previously, near what is now the Cap Hill Goodwill, we had Peace on the Streets by Kids from the Streets (PSKS). PSKS existed as a low-barrier shelter and resource center for youths and young adults formerly located on Capitol Hill. PSKS was founded in 1995, and was a community resource for food, shelter, and emergency services provided to people 13-29. This shelter and drop-in center relocated in 2015, and once PSKS moved to Summit and Howell, it was a ticking clock to closure. This shelter and daytime center recently closed down, leaving the city with one less vital community resource and houseless people seeking refuge with 25 less overnight beds available per night.

As someone who has experienced resource insecurity on the Hill and was later a case manager for young adults in the area, I can speak personally to the lack of support from the community in regard to food, shelter, and case management even when PSKS was still in operation.

The shutdown of this space leaves a giant 25-bed-shaped hole for the needs of the City of Seattle and the centralized community of Capitol Hill. Though YouthCare and Seattle Central are currently working toward an “opportunity center” for young adults to access employment and housing services, this new space has not announced plans for an overnight shelter or for drop-in services outside of job coaching and education case management, and has no official launch date. Melinda Giovengo, Executive Director of YouthCare since 2006, stated that “over the next six to nine months, we’ll be focused on exploring the feasibility and design of an education and employment focused Opportunity Center for houseless and unstably housed young people”, with the location to be built at Broadway and Pine.

This was almost two years ago that this plan began “action.” This is by no fault of any specific group that I can point a finger at- as a former YouthCare rapid rehousing case manager, I have full faith in the non-profit organization and am familiar with the obstacle course that is the bureaucratic system.

But two years? How many young folks have gone days without food in this time? Now that PSKS the lone resource on this side of the Hill- is gone, where will these young people find reliable food and emergency service? Roots Young Adult Shelter or the Orion Center are options, but once beds fill up there, where do these young people have to go?

One reliable resource is Community Lunch on Capitol Hill, a program that provides meals and temporary day shelter for disadvantaged people. They also have a basic needs closet for folks to utilize. The meals operate noon to one on Tuesdays and Fridays at Central Lutheran Church, and dinner Wednesdays and Thursdays 5-6pm at All Pilgrims. They have food, basic needs supplies, and medical services once a week. Outside of that, there is very little in the way of reliable resources for people in our community. Not to mention this space is not able to provide emergency shelter or housing resources.

I do believe that Capitol Hill is capable of having a more impactful and supportive community, as listed above. It’s difficult to not become frustrated thinking about the way social class is impacting our city and feel powerless in the wake of this divide. The conversations are difficult to have, and remind us of the reasons we’re all problematic and all a part of this issue. 

It is this frustration that can churn embers of resistance into the warmth of community. 

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