Seattle looks to transition RV-dwellers into housing with reworked ‘safe lot’ program

Jul 1, 2022, 1:28 PM
safe lot...
(KIRO 7 News)
(KIRO 7 News)

The King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) has awarded the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) $1.9 million to relocate 50 homeless RV-dwellers into permanent housing via the “safe lot” program.

The contract runs from June 2022 through February 2023. LIHI was the only contractor to bid on KCRHA’s request for a safe lot service provider.

A location has yet to be determined for the safe lot, but LIHI “is looking at places all across Seattle,” Jon Grant, LIHI’s chief strategy officer, told MyNorthwest. The designated parking facility could exist as either a commercial lease or operate on city property.

LIHI will provide wraparound case management and support social services with 24/7 staffing at the location. Services provided include case management, behavioral health counseling, and substance abuse treatment.

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Intake of clients will be facilitated in partnership with the Scofflaw Mitigation Project (SMP), a homeless outreach coordinator with more than 10 years of experience.

While the program will serve 50 clients and approximately 35 RVs, Grant envisions that as a rolling number: LIHI, as one of the largest affordable housing programs in Seattle, will work towards transitioning safe lot clients into permanent housing so that those 50 spaces can continue to open to new individuals.

Grant anticipates several obstacles to the program’s implementation: namely, that many homeless currently living out of RVs have already engaged with social services in some fashion, and have decided instead to find housing out of a vehicle.

“These are folks who have gone through the homelessness social service system before, and that system has often failed them. It’s why they decided to get an RV in the first place because they could become at least nominally self-reliant,” Grant added.

“It’s sometimes a big leap for folks to engage with an organization like LIHI or any kind of social service provider, and be told trust us when maybe they tried to get served through a rapid rehousing program that ended up getting them evicted. These folks have lots of reasons not to trust the system. There’s a lot of trust-building that needs to happen.”

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Seattle looks to transition RV-dwellers into housing with reworked ‘safe lot’ program