How innovative Tacoma shelter could be blueprint for Seattle’s homeless crisis
Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda visited Tacoma Wednesday, to get a look at the city’s innovative — and largely successful — approach to sheltering its homeless.
It’s called a “stability site,” and Tacoma’s been seeing significant results from it for upwards of two years. On Wednesday, Mosqueda hoped to glean some knowledge firsthand, alongside Tacoma’s own councilmembers.
“We had the opportunity to be down at the stability site, tour it, share what’s working, share some of the outcomes, [and] share some of the challenges,” said Tacoma City Councilmember Ryan Mello.
The concept itself is relatively simple, with the city erecting a large, FEMA-style tent with 60 smaller tents inside. The facility provides wraparound services 24-hours a day to get Tacoma’s homeless population into permanent housing.
It includes access to counselors and case managers, vans to transport people to medical facilities, and food donated by the local community, as well as lockers, showers, toilets, and electricity.
With the stability shelter seeing roughly a third of the homeless population it’s served transition into permanent housing, Mosqueda sees potential for Seattle to try building a similar facility.
“The stability site here in Tacoma is the appropriate response to the crisis that many of our cities are facing,” she said. “I would love for the City of Seattle, now three-and-a-half years into our state of emergency, to be able to erect similar structures like the ones that we saw today.”
Tacoma’s site is the first of its kind in the region, and sets an ambitious 90-day goal to transition its residents into permanent housing, with exceptions made for those who show significant progress.
“As long as they’re making meaningful goals and completing those things, we can extend them after the 90 days,” Catholic Community Services Director of Homeless Adult Services Melissa Moss said back in April. “But, if we have people that are here that are not willing to engage with any kind of services, aren’t making any meaningful steps to getting themselves employed or housed, then we exit them from the site.”
Moving forward, Councilmember Mosqueda hopes to stand up “at least” 40 pallet shelters, essentially small, pop-up shelters with bunk beds, electricity, and doors that lock. Tacoma’s stability shelter already has 40 of its own, used as incentives for those who meet their goals living in the bigger communal tent.
“This is an important investment we must make this budget,” said Mosqueda.