EVERETT — Less than a year after Everett’s first temporary shelter village opened, the city could double the units and residents this spring.
It’s one project among the city’s efforts to alleviate homelessness. Other ideas include developing a day center and continuing support for food distribution, Community Development director Julie Willie told the Everett City Council in a presentation last week.
Some of the city’s federal $20.6 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money could make them a reality. Staff recommended spending between $5.2 million and $9.9 million on shelter and homelessness support facilities.
In July, residents moved into the first 20 units on city property at Smith Avenue and 37th Street. The Everett Gospel Mission, a Christian-based nonprofit that shelters and offers recovery programs for people, manages the site for the city.
Each 64-square-foot dwelling has a bed, electricity and water. All are occupied. The 24 residents experienced chronic homelessness.
“I think Everett should be proud,” said John Hull, Everett Gospel Mission’s director of strategic initiatives. “It’s a population that we could not have served without this project.”
Willie said half of those new units could go on the Everett Gospel Mission site. Hull confirmed the nonprofit plans to expand the village with another 20 shelters.
The location’s approved permit allows up to 54, but city officials have said they don’t expect to reach that.
Some couples live there now. But the city plans on capping the number of residents at 40, one per unit.
“As we move forward we’re making them for individuals as a smart programmatic move,” Willie told the council.
Everett Gospel Mission hopes to have the new units ready by April, if not sooner, Hull said.
Residents are referred for the temporary homes by the city’s Community Outreach and Enforcement Team (COET) that pairs a social worker with a police officer. There isn’t an official wait list, but the COET unit works with clients interested in moving in when a temporary shelter is available, city spokesperson Julio Cortes said in an email.
The Everett Gospel Mission “will work together with COET, as they did last summer, to identify and place individuals into the added units beginning this spring,” Cortes said.
The nonprofit is buying two 100-square-foot units for office space, a 200-square-foot community room and a bathroom and shower unit, thanks to “generous donors,” Hull said. That will give the site four bathrooms, each with shower, sink and toilet.
A new staff member joined the mission recently to manage the site, and another is being sought to work with residents.
A rotation of five security officers are on site all day, every day, Hull said.
The city is evaluating other groups to manage new sites for the remaining 20 new units.
Temporary shelter villages are one element in the city’s approach for housing. Staff also coordinate with their peers in Snohomish County government, which is expanding the use of hotel rooms as emergency and temporary shelter for people. More than 900 people are in the county’s Coordinated Entry system, waiting for help. Fewer than 10% are currently getting it.
Beyond temporary stays, Hull said, the high cost and overall lack of housing has made it difficult to transition residents into more permanent housing.
“It’s not a quick pass-through,” he said.
But the mission has had success with residents agreeing to health care and social services once they’re “stabilized” with a Pallet shelter, Hull said.
Another project the city’s looking into is a daytime space. A community care center — as the staff is calling it — would be a day shelter with laundry services, meals, medical care and showers. The idea has been considered since 2015, Willie said.
“It’s something that I have really felt was necessary for a long time,” Councilmember Judy Tuohy said.
Public toilets could be part of the city’s ARPA spending and a way to address hygiene needs among people who are homeless, among others out in public who need them.
“It’s been difficult to move, because it’s been met with a lot of concerns with the community,” Mayor Cassie Franklin said.
City staff plan to work with food banks on post-pandemic plans to keep meals accessible. The city funds in part the Everett Hot Meals Coalition, which serves as a centralized network to support free food and meals in Everett. That program offers between 1,500 and 1,600 meals per week.