80 shelter beds for the homeless open in lobby of Seattle City Hall
By day, the lobby at Seattle City Hall bustles with lawmakers, city employees, and members of the public keen to be heard at council meetings.
Now, by night, it will become home to rows of mats, set out for homeless men and women who need a place to sleep.
Eighty new shelter spots will be available in the lobby of City Hall starting Tuesday. People seeking shelter will be able to enter at 9:30 p.m. and will have to leave by 5:30 a.m. so the space can be readied for city use.
The new beds are the first stage in a plan that will boost bridge housing and shelter capacity across the city by 25 percent in the coming months.
The idea of providing shelter at City Hall isn't new; there's already a shelter space on a lower level of the building. The addition of these 80 beds will double capacity, allowing 160 homeless people to stay there each night.
On a recent evening, people waited patiently to be called into the original shelter space on the lower level. If they were there the night before, they would be guaranteed a spot. If not, they might have to try another shelter.
Once people entered the room, they grabbed spray bottles and paper towels to wipe down their mats with a mix of bleach and water. They set up their blankets.
The room buzzed with hushed conversations as some people lay down and others read.
Nadine has been homeless for a couple of months. An incident with her roommate put her out on the street. She declined to give her last name.
She has short blonde hair cut in a neat bob. Her finger and toenails are painted and unchipped.
She talked about how important it is to be able to come inside and feel safe.
"There are a lot of things that people take for granted in this world,” Nadine said. “Not having your own place to stay is really difficult. There's a lot of emotions that go with it. People here are suffering so badly inside, and they need hope."
Nadine said that she encourages people living outside to try the new shelter beds opening up on the floors above.
On a single night in January, 12,112 people in King County were experiencing homelessness. In Seattle, more than 4,400 people were living without shelter.
Major Phillip Smith is the social service director for the Salvation Army of Seattle, which runs the City Hall shelters.
He said there's a need for more shelter beds.
"People are still sleeping outside and on the street that don't need to be," Smith said.
According to Smith, the new shelter space in the lobby won’t have quite as many services as the space below to begin with.
For example, people staying in the lobby have to enter later and don’t get a meal. There isn’t a place to store their belongings upstairs like there is in the space below.
But Smith said they have the capacity to build the program out and add those services – as well as more beds – as they go.
Correction 7/03/2018: This story originally stated that pets are allowed at City Hall Shelters. Only service animals are allowed.