Cooling Centers and Emergency Shelters

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Colleen Pate
Posts: 135
Joined: Mon Jan 09, 2023 1:22 pm

Cooling Centers and Emergency Shelters

Post by Colleen Pate »

Colleagues –

As we head into summer, there are many issues Council will continue to work on to have a successful budget process. Another part of summer that gives us all great concern is the heat and its impact, both short term and long term, on our unhoused neighbors.

This post is my effort to outline some questions, challenges, and possible opportunities about cooling centers and emergency shelters. I have asked the Homeless Strategy Office to work closely with Council over the next few weeks to make sure we all have a strong grasp on the challenges and opportunities ahead.

David Gray plans on kicking off this process with a presentation on Wednesday, June 5, at the Public Health Committee meeting, but here are my thoughts on the challenges and the questions Council should work on.

On Emergency Shelter:
• We know that even though the City has nearly doubled our emergency shelter capacity in the past 18 months, there is still a very long wait list for unhoused neighbors that want shelter.
• We know that at the same time as the desire by our unhoused neighbors to seek and accept shelter increases, the Marshaling Yard is scheduled to close next Spring.
• We know that the Marshaling Yard intake is going to change in September and only allow clients with housing vouchers an opportunity to seek shelter at the Marshaling Yard, and in December the Marshaling Yard will stop all intakes and begin the process of winding down.
• We know that HSO is working with Endeavors and Sunrise to increase the number of Sunrise case managers assisting Marshalling Yard clients with housing placements.

I am unable to attend the Public Health Committee meeting tomorrow, so I have outlined my questions below regarding emergency shelter and the closing of the Marshaling Yard:

1. Has the HSO found an alternative site for a facility to replace the Marshaling Yard?
2. How confident is the HSO that they can find a replacement?
3. How confident is the HSO that the City can get a replacement open before the Marshaling Yard closes early next year?
4. How soon will we get data on the success of Sunrise’s case management?
5. What are the expected outcomes for the clients of the Marshaling Yard when it closes if there is not a replacement shelter available?
6. As the Marshaling Yard changes its intake procedures, how will this impact HEAL initiatives and encampment clean ups?

On the need for cooling centers:

• We know our libraries were open on Sunday and Monday of Memorial Day weekend because there was great need for cooling centers, but it came with a financial and human resource cost to our library staff.
• We know our non-profits and HSO staff indicate that there is already a greater demand for cooling centers, water, and supplies to combat the effects of the heat on our unhoused population.

Through HSO’s contract with Urban Alchemy for the Eighth Street Shelter, people experiencing homelessness can now cool off at The Oasis. Open seven days per week, this new cooling area is set up between the Eighth Street Shelter and the ARCH. It is a safe place for people to get water, coffee, and snacks, and to engage with Urban Alchemy practitioners to learn where other services are available. More than 200 people have already received services at The Oasis. Additionally, the ARCH will serve as a cooling center for the summer, with access from 10:00a.m. - 6:00 p.m. seven days a week.

I think it’s important to ask the HSO, HSEM, and our non-profit partners to bring back hard data and reports from our unhoused neighbors about the impacts of the changes that are coming and on success or failures of our efforts. Some of the best parts of being Mayor are touring our new shelters and housing projects and meeting our neighbors that have a chance to get healthier and safer. I celebrate each one of those people and projects, but I am also aware of our failures in meeting the needs of all our unhoused neighbors. I am extremely worried about this summer – are we doing everything we can?

I know that some of what we inherited was out of our control, but starting now the decisions we make about this summer and the decisions we make about future shelter needs is ours.

I look forward to working together on these important issues.

Thanks,
Kirk

On behalf of Mayor Watson
Chief of Staff, Mayor Watson's Office