Homelessness Response

Ensuring residents are safe, Seattle is clean, and people experiencing a housing crisis have access to critical services and supports
The City of Seattle, in partnership with regional and local partners, is committed to ensuring residents are safe, Seattle is clean, and people experiencing homelessness have access to critical services and supports. As one of the largest contributors to Seattle’s safety net, the Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) invests more than $70 million in contracts to more than 35 community-based human service providers, Public Health, and the Navigation Team, serving more than 25,000 households and representing over 30,000 people in homelessness prevention programs, emergency services, and housing programs in 2018. HSD supports programs, initiatives, and policies that help people move from homelessness to housing, with a commitment to racial equity to ensure that people who are disproportionately impacted by homelessness receive culturally appropriate services.  City departments, including the Seattle Police Department, Fire Department, Public Utilities, Parks and Recreation, and Transportation support efforts to mitigate the effects of unsheltered homelessness in Seattle. 
Photographer: Tim Durkan
“While we cannot solve this crisis overnight, we must continue urgent action to make progress. We must work together to prevent more people from falling into homelessness, to bring more people off the streets and into safer places, and to pick up garbage, waste, and needles. As we do so, we must be accountable to Seattle taxpayers about the investments we are making, what is working, and where we need to innovate.”
-Mayor Durkan

Deliver services that make a difference in people’s lives

What we track: Make homelessness Rare, Brief, and a Non-recurring experience
Why is this important?
HSD’s Homeless Strategy and Investment (HSI) division invests in programs that focus on assisting people to secure permanent housing and end their experience of homelessness. Services are provided in three investment areas – prevention, emergency response, and housing. Agency provider partners that receive City funds assist people who are at imminent risk of falling into homelessness, or who are living without housing. In 2018, these programs served over 25,000 households in the homeless services system.
Hover over to see our data about how we are making homelessness Rare, Brief and Non-recurring
For complete definitions of each measure, please refer to the 'How we measure' section below the graphs. Please note that Households have been abbreviated as HH. Each quarter is cumulative of all previous quarters. For example, Quarter 3 represents data for quarters one through three (1/1/2019 - 9/30/2019).
How we measure:
The City of Seattle aims to make the experience of homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring.  These measures provide data on unduplicated households and individuals to see how well we are doing to prevent people from becoming homeless (rare), minimize the amount of time people experience homelessness (brief), support people to maintain stable housing and not return to homelessness (non-recurring). 
Rare: Unduplicated number and percent of households and individuals prevented from falling into homelessness.  The total number captures people who enrolled in a Seattle-funded prevention program and did not fall into homelessness.
Brief: Average number of days that households spend in Seattle-funded homeless programs including basic shelter, enhanced shelter, villages, transitional housing or rapid rehousing.
Non-recurring: Unduplicated number and percent of households and individuals who returned to homelessness within 6 months after exiting to permanent housing from a Seattle-funded program.
What progress are we making?
Rare:  Homelessness Prevention programs pair financial assistance and case management to support people at imminent risk of homelessness to remain stably housed. In quarter one, HP services prevented 234 unique households, representing 296 people, from becoming homeless, an increase of 24% over quarter one 2018. 
Brief:  Investments in programs such as enhanced shelter, diversion, outreach, transitional housing, and rapid re-housing seek to make the experience of homelessness brief by supporting people to move from homelessness to housing. In quarter one, 922 unique households, representing 1,398 people, moved from homelessness to housing, an increase of 6% over quarter one 2018.
Non-recurring:  12% of households leaving for permanent housing returned to homelessness within six months. This is a slight increase compared to the same time last year (9%).

Provide health care to people experiencing homelessness

What we track: Number of persons served by Health Care for the Homeless Network (HCHN)
Why is this important?
It is critical that all people in our City have access to health care services.  To support access for people experiencing homelessness, the City supports health care services that are embedded in emergency shelter and housing programs, and a mobile medical van that visits rotating sites in the City. These services are funded through the Health Care for the Homeless Network (HCHN). HCHN’s integrated care teams provide physical and behavioral health services to address important public health concerns including addiction, drug overdose, and communicable disease outbreaks. These services include providing community education and resources to other service providers and the general public. On an annual basis, HCHN providers conduct over 27,000 health care visits to individuals and families living homeless in Seattle.
Hover over each bar to see the number of people served versus the City's goal
How we measure:
The City has an annual goal of 7,540 unduplicated people experiencing homelessness in the City of Seattle having improved access to health care through one or more face-to-face health care visits with a Health Care for the Homeless Network care provider.  Data is updated on a quarterly basis.
What progress are we making?
Health Care for the Homeless Network (HCHN) providers build relationships with Seattle’s most difficult to reach and vulnerable residents. HCHN program emphasizes linking people who are homeless into patient-centered care for medical, dental, mental health, and substance use conditions.
1. Where We Go: HCHN continues to expand the number of field-based sites (shelters, supportive housing sites, day centers, encampments) that offer walk-in services to individuals living homeless. Staff deliver services at over 70 locations throughout Seattle. This includes our growing Mobile Medical Program
2. What We Deliver: HCHN’s integrated care teams provide physical and behavioral health services to address important public health concerns including addiction, drug overdose, and communicable disease outbreaks. These services include providing community education and resources to other service providers and the general public. 
3. Who We Reach: HCHN providers build relationships with Seattle’s hardest to reach and vulnerable residents. This includes the unsheltered population, seniors and youth living on the streets, and individuals with untreated mental health and substance use disorder needs. On an annual basis, HCHN providers conduct over 27,000 health care visits to individuals and families living homeless in Seattle with a target of reaching 7,540 unique individuals.

Support communities that are safe and clean

What we track: Support people in moving to safer spaces
Why is this important?
Seattle is focused on helping people move off the streets and into permanent housing. The City of Seattle has launched the Navigation Team – a specially trained team comprised of outreach workers paired with SPD personnel, to connect people living unsheltered to housing and critical resources, while removing unsafe encampments (click on the image to the right for more information).  Safer spaces include basic shelters, enhanced shelters, and tiny house villages where it is safer to sleep and access available services and supports, including case management, employment support, and family re-connection.
Hover over each bar to see the number of individuals referred versus the number enrolling in shelter
How we measure:
The number of outreach referrals to shelter by the Navigation Team and percent enrolled.  These figures reflect individuals referred to and enrolled at a specific shelter site. This does not capture other shelter or service enrollments, including those made beyond the Navigation Team and its contracted outreach partners. 
The Navigation Team collects data in the field in order to better understand the needs of people living unsheltered and to match people to shelter and service options. Often, the team engages people over many months and takes multiple interactions before an acceptance of services and shelter.
The City developed the NavApp as a way for team members to capture information in the field remotely. This data helps outreach workers understand individual histories to better tailor their engagement.  The data also helps policy makers evaluate outcomes, which is critical to ensuring the Navigation Team’s effectiveness.
The NavApp is only used by the Navigation Team members and it’s not integrated into other data systems, such as the Homeless Management information System (HMIS). The Navigation Team, and all City contracted outreach providers, are responsible for making and tracking only referrals to shelter. Shelter enrollment is the responsibility of the shelter provider. This had historically created challenges tracking the outcomes from referrals to services.
However, through investments to improve the Navigation Team’s data capabilities, HSD is now able to match some NavApp data with HMIS data sets. The information provided below reflects individuals that appeared in both the NavApp and HMIS at a specific shelter within 48 hours of the referral to shelter. An individual will not be reflected in this data set if they:
  • Provided different personally identifying information in either the NavApp or HMIS;
  • Enrolled at a shelter beyond those first 48 hours;
  • Opted to not share their personal information with other parties; or
  • Enrolled at a shelter other than the one they were referred to.
While currently, the data only reflects a subset of the people referred to shelter by the Navigation Team, the ability to report on more shelter enrollments, and other data points should improve over time.
What we track: Amount of garbage and debris removed from public space
Why is this important?
In January 2017, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) began a pilot program to collect trash from unmanaged encampments and from areas where RV camping is frequent. In collaboration with other City departments and community partners, SPU gives out litter bags and conducts regular and on-call pick-ups. In May 2018, Seattle began a new Citywide effort to remove garbage and debris from roads, sidewalks, and the public right-of-way adjacent to RVs. The pilot is designed to encourage RV occupants to voluntarily move their RVs, which allows City crews to clean and remove garbage, waste, and immobile vehicles left behind.
Photographer: Tim Durkan
Hover over each bar to see the amount of garbage collected and sites cleaned
How we measure:
Number of encampments and RVs cleaned and pounds of garbage picked up. SPU and HSD update data on a quarterly basis.
What progress are we making?
HSD provides outreach services, both contracted with service providers and directly through System Navigators, to provide outreach, service connections, and referrals to shelter for people living in unmanaged encampments.
The Navigation Team continues to be the City’s leading response to addressing unsheltered homelessness on Seattle’s streets, connecting people living unsheltered to resources and reducing serious public health and safety impacts throughout the city. 
In the first quarter of 2019, the Navigation Team interacted with 731 unique individuals out in the field, making 222 referrals to shelter. The team also coordinated the cleaned up of 355 tons of garbage, waste, and debris from City property and removed 71 unmanaged encampments that posed serious public health and safety concerns.