Opening Doors to Help More People Navigate to Permanent Housing

Eight months of hard work and planning culminated yesterday in the grand opening of Compass at First Presbyterian. The new enhanced shelter in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood provides overnight shelter, meals and case management services. With the paint barely dry, members of the First Hill community gathered to celebrate and acknowledge what is possible when our community, non-profits and local governments come together to apply their collective will to solve a pressing problem.

More than just a bed for the night, Compass at First Presbyterian offers a significant departure from the traditional shelter model. By combining safe shelter, complete wrap-around services—including meals, laundry and shower facilities—and intensive case management, Compass offers a pathway to permanent housing for 100 men and women.

Photo: Brandon Macz, Capitol Hill Times

Compass Housing Alliance and partners carefully designed and developed the space to support people along with their partners, possessions and pets. For many people who sleep outside, traditional shelters are not an option. Often, people do not want to be separated from their loved ones or the personal items they have managed to retain.

At Compass at First Presbyterian, men occupy the main area and have dedicated bathrooms, changing areas and laundry facilities. Sleeping quarters for women are in a separate room connected to their own bathroom and laundry room. Each guest has a large bin for their possessions which will be kept safely in the storage room.

Compass at First Presbyterian is the outcome of a partnership between Compass Housing Alliance, First Presbyterian Church and the City of the Seattle.

Speaking at the opening ceremony today, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said that the city had realized that traditional shelter approaches were not working. “We knew we had to develop an integrated approach to homelessness that was based on outcomes and not only services delivered.” Murray said the most important outcome is permanent housing.

He added that the city had decided to invest $1.3 million in Compass at First Presbyterian because it offers a new approach to shelter housing: a place to stay and access services with the opportunity to find permanent housing. Murray said that 24/7 shelters are the next step to housing stability.

Partnering for Greater Impact

Seattle First Presbyterian Church provided the space to make this shelter possible. “We are so thankful to partner with Compass Housing Alliance and in helping people, our lives will also be changed,” said Reverend Heidi Husted Armstrong.

Recalling a meeting with the Compass Housing Alliance team eight months ago, Pastor Heidi said: “We stood in this space and had a conversation. Something happened and within an hour, we were almost like kids at Christmas looking at each other and wondering if something like this could really happen.”

Executive Director Janet Pope of Compass Housing Alliance emphasized that this project has been a true partnership. It also represents a system-wide opportunity to do things better. “The 24/7 enhanced shelter model offers individuals the opportunity to stay in one place, which is the stability they need while searching for a permanent solution, rather than returning to the streets each day and hoping for a bed somewhere that night.”

“Compass Housing Alliance has nearly 100 years of experience serving a vulnerable population and have advocated for this system-changing, 24/7 model within the four shelters that we operate. We are pleased to continue our partnership with the city in implementing this evidenced best practice in our community,” Pope explained.

In the coming days, the first guests will start moving in. What today was an empty space will be filled with the sounds of people reclaiming their paths to stability within a caring community.