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King County opens homeless shelter in unused wing of Seattle jail


One creative solution to homelessness is about to be realized, in the form of a 40-bed enhanced men’s shelter in a former work release space at Seattle’s King County Correctional Facility.

RELATED: Pam Roach calls for housing homeless in vacant jail cells

King County Executive Dow Constantine made the announcement Thursday, following through on plans announced late last year.

“The new West Wing Enhanced Shelter is focused on helping those with the greatest needs who are traditionally the most challenging to serve. This is how we will break the cycle of homelessness and jail and despair,” Executive Constantine said in a news release.

The new enhanced shelter opens March 31 and occupies a wing that previously housed offices, classrooms, and a work release space. The entire west wing held minimum security inmates in 435 beds before getting shut down in 2012 due to budgetary constraints.

The Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) will be on-site providing behavioral health treatment, housing counseling, and employment services. The shelter’s goal is to “reach out to and engage people who have been on the streets longer, and those with mental health or substance use issues.”

“We appreciate King County not only creating new shelter for people who would otherwise be struggling outside, but doing so in a way that allowed us to involve people most affected by homelessness in the design and formation of the project,” said DESC Executive Director Dan Malone. “Working together, we were able to transform a space to be avoided into one our clients will want to be in.”

Renovations to get the shelter up and running cost $2 million, including upgrades to internal systems, plumbing, sinks, fiber optic cables, paint, laundry, and more. Operations will cost roughly $1.8 million over the next two years.

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