When federal funding for a hotel shelter program abruptly ran out, hundreds of people were at risk of being pushed back onto the streets.
Now, after three months of emergency activation, KCRHA and partners have moved 32 households (53 people) into permanent housing and 58 households (122 people) into shelter or temporary locations—ensuring that these individuals, couples, and families with children could stay inside, safe and stable, with the services necessary to help them get back on their feet.
The activation was a response to the collapse of a hotel shelter program created and managed by the Lived Experience Coalition (LEC) from Winter 2022 through March 2023—when it was discovered that the LEC had overspent their funding.
The LEC is an advocacy group that does not usually provide direct services like shelter. The hotel shelter was launched using federal funds and operated independently and without oversight from KCRHA or any city, county, or state entity.
On learning of the financial collapse and potential impacts, KCRHA and our public, private, and nonprofit partners immediately began to seek solutions that would protect as many people as possible and prevent a massive return to unsheltered homelessness.
In April 2023, KCRHA activated emergency management protocols, and shifted agency resources from the downtown Seattle project Partnership for Zero over to these South King County hotels. The goal was to coordinate daily activities that would assess needs and connect people in the LEC hotels to services, and if available, to shelter and housing.
King County provided $750,000 to KCRHA, and the state Legislature approved Gov. Inslee’s request for up to $6 million from the Right of Way Safety Initiative to extend the temporary hotel placements through the end of June. In total, but not including staff time, the three-month emergency activation cost approximately $1.6 million. The private philanthropy group We Are In also provided $1 million directly to the LEC to backfill their overspending.
Because the LEC was not able to provide a client list or information about the needs of the people in the hotels, KCRHA staff and partners were on-site at four hotels daily to build a By-Name List so that teams could match people with service options.
We identified a significant number of families with young children, seniors, and medically fragile individuals—and those groups became the top priority for placement in shelter and housing with appropriate care.
Several people were connected to inpatient substance use treatment, domestic violence survivors were moved to safe placements, and veterans were connected with housing vouchers. Partners worked together to obtain identification documents and provide transportation. Nonprofits delivered food to ensure that people would not go hungry, a medically-necessary oxygen tank that had been repossessed was replaced, and children were provided with snacks, toys, and books.
Each person on the By-Name List was connected with support services, and, if available, with housing or shelter.
Over the course of three months:
- 32 households (53 people) have moved into permanent housing.
- 58 households (122 people) have moved into shelter or another temporary location.
- 77 households (110 people) have independently left the hotel/motel sites since the beginning of KCRHA’s involvement in April; they may have moved in with family and friends or to other housing, or they may have moved to an unsheltered site, but service providers have not been able to confirm their current location.
Thank You to Our Partners
This work has been an incredible undertaking, and it would not be possible without the collaboration and support of our service providers and our public and private funders.
“It’s hard to overstate the level of collaboration and partnership needed to activate a response like this,” said Governor Jay Inslee. “I feel deep gratitude to the organizations and leaders who supported this effort, and KCRHA’s willingness to pivot in the interest of protecting the safety and stability of hundreds of people.”
Partners include PDA, Urban League, The Salvation Army, REACH, Recovery Navigators, Peer Kent, Neighborhood House, ReWA, Catholic Community Services, DESC, YMCA, Mary’s Place, and Destinies First Transportation Services. Staff worked overtime, rearranged their schedules, and shifted resources and priorities to address this unique situation. Additional supportive services have been provided by the King County Library System, the Emergency Feeding Program, Essentials First, Sewa, Spice Bridge, United Way of King County, Renton Lion’s Club, and the Renton Nourishing Network. We also received generous offers to help from Hopelink, Project Feast, 4 Tomorrow, Farmer Frog, and Health Point.
“When the shortfall hit, we worked with partners across sectors and governments to quickly develop solutions, and secured housing and services for people in need,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Working with We Are In, KCRHA, the State, and the City of Seattle, we gathered the resources and built the partnerships to solve this crisis.”
“Despite facing a situation where hundreds of individuals risked returning to the streets, KCRHA provided a needed and urgent response coordinating solutions for hotel shelter participants,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “This important work meant making sure these families with children, seniors, and medically vulnerable individuals remained supported throughout this challenging and uncertain time. In partnership with the Governor, King County Executive, We Are In, and many service providers, the Authority secured needed emergency funding, executed an operations plan, and connected those in need with ongoing services, shelter, and housing options. The City of Seattle is grateful for KCRHA’s leadership to address this issue over the last several months.”
“The hotel-based shelter program formerly operated by LEC was in crisis just a few months ago, with dozens of families facing possible eviction due to lack of funding,” said Felicia Salcedo, Executive Director of We Are In. “Thanks to the leadership of KCRHA, community providers, King County, and the State of Washington, the situation was brought to a resolution with connections to housing and shelter. We look forward to the continued collaboration and work to bring and keep more of our neighbors inside.”
A Call for Infrastructure and Coordination
The cooperation and collaboration across multiple cities and partner organizations was truly inspiring, built trust and strengthened partnerships, and shows what we can accomplish when we work together. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that our communities simply do not have the infrastructure to meet the full scope of the need.
The emergency activation also highlights the primary purpose for which KCRHA was created—to develop consistent, unified coordination of service provision across the system of homelessness response.
With better coordination, oversight, and infrastructure, we hope to prevent emergencies like these before they happen.