Mayor Ed Murray lauded a new 24-hour, low-barrier shelter to provide space for men and women who have difficulty in traditional shelter environments as an innovative approach to addressing homelessness. But, like with most things in this city, it will come at a cost.
The new Navigation Center, slated to open this year, will operate out of the Pearl Warren building near the intersection of 12th Avenue South and South Weller Street. That happens to be the current home of Operation Nightwatch, a nighttime shelter run by Compass Housing Alliance that shelters 75 people each night.
Now Operation Nightwatch has to find a new home, and quickly, said Rev. Rick Reynolds, executive director of Operation Nightwatch.
“I’m trying hard not to wake up in the middle of the night,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds began with Operation Nightwatch in 1994. The organization has moved several times over the course of its work, most recently to the Millionair’s Club in Belltown and then to the Pearl Warren building in the Chinatown-International District in late 2014.
It’s not easy on sometimes fragile clientele to change locations too many times, and it will be difficult to find a place that has the specifications Operation Nightwatch needs for a price it can afford, Reynolds said.
City officials have told Reynolds, and Real Change, that they are helping Operation Nightwatch find a new home.
“We want those Operation Nightwatch beds to continue. We will find another location for them,” said Meg Olberding, director of external affairs for the Human Services Department.
The city chose to open the Navigation Center at the Pearl Warren Building because it is close to the Chinatown-International District, Olberding said. Residents there had noted that there are people in the area that need help and access to a low-barrier shelter that allows for pets, partners and possessions, the qualities that make the Navigation Center unique among homeless services in Seattle.
It also had to be near transportation, Olberding said.
The same features that make the building ideal for the Navigation Center appealed to Operation Nightwatch.
Operation Nightwatch requires between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet of space, with toilets sufficient to meet the needs of up to 75 people. The Pearl Warren has just over 20,700 feet, two multistall bathrooms and two urinals. Operation Nightwatch has access to about 2,000 square feet of that space, and the toilets get busy in the mornings, Reynolds said.
Although the space considerations are important, Operation Nightwatch also needs to be near to public transportation so its clients can get to their appointments, jobs or other services during the day. The current location is also convenient because it’s just two streets down from the building that the group owns and uses for senior housing and meals.
If Operation Nightwatch is unable to find a new location, the city would lose 75 beds, the same number it intends to make available through the Navigation Center. The city is committed to making sure that doesn’t happen, Olberding said.
Mayor Ed Murray first established the creation of the Navigation Center through an executive order in June 2016 in partnership with the Downtown Emergency Services Center (DESC), one of the largest providers of shelter beds in the city.
It will offer laundry and hygiene facilities, a place for people to store their belongings and meals.
No drug or alcohol use will be allowed onsite, but unlike other shelters in Seattle, clients will not have to be sober to be admitted.
They will have access to substance abuse and mental health services, as well as meals offered through Operation Sack Lunch, a nonprofit meal provider in the area.
The Pearl Warren building will need repairs to fix leaks and modifications including new shower and bathing facilities, pet areas and storage space.
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