Ron Morgan came to Urban Rest Stop to wash some clothes, but he saw that one of the staff members, Felix, was offering haircuts, too.
He pulled up a chair in the storefront window on Ninth Avenue to have his long, brown hair trimmed as nine washer-dryer combos and six stacked dryers hummed in the background. Men and women weaved through the space with laundry baskets. A few wore jumpsuits so they could wash the clothes they were wearing.
Morgan, a former Real Change vendor, has used this service for years.
“I’m so glad it’s here if I do need it,” he said. “This is one of the best resources for homeless people in Seattle.”
After tossing their clothes into the dryer, people headed to a counter to pick up shampoo, toothpaste, razors and shaving cream for a shower.
The center is open Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
People who run the center say supplies would have disappeared and the hours would be cut if the Seattle City Council had not intervened. The council finalized its budget Nov. 24, which increased funding for the Urban Rest Stop $200,000 above what Mayor Ed Murray had proposed.
The funding ends a debate between the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), which owns and operates the Urban Rest Stop, and Murray’s office over the city’s commitment to fund the storefront.
The Urban Rest Stop lost federal funding last year, which was intentional, said LIHI Executive Director Sharon Lee. The city removed funding for Urban Rest Stop from a grant application package to increase the chances that the city could acquire funding for housing. HUD has been focused on funding housing.
Lee said that former Mayor Mike McGinn agreed to fully fund the Urban Rest Stop in the future in exchange for removing it from the grant. Murray’s office said the agreement was to initially fund the Urban Rest Stop, but slowly taper off.
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said she saw documentation showing that the original agreement was for the city to decrease funding.
Murray’s proposal provided $416,000, about $200,000 short of what the Urban Rest Stop would need to continue.
Urban Rest Stop staff and clients appealed to the city council, who agreed unanimously to add the $200,000 funding for 2015. In the following year, Urban Rest Stop will have to compete for the funding through a contract application.
Bagshaw sponsored the funding after seeing the documentation, and she was moved to fund the program after she saw how much it helped. “I came here, and I looked,” she said on Nov. 18 at Urban Rest Stop. “I saw what they were doing.”
Lee said the funding will help maintain the program and provide services to the more than 5,000 people who use it.
“The homeless population has increased, and the [Urban] Rest Stop is a sure place to get people cleaned up, work ready and able to apply for housing,” Lee said.