Category Archives: Services

Homelessness Count Shows System Improvements, Growing Needs

The numbers are daunting. The January 27th count found 11,643 people experiencing homelessness in King County. Around 47% were considered unsheltered, living in vehicles, tents, abandoned buildings, or on the street.

Despite this, the report from All Home contains good news. Over 7,500 households moved from homelessness into permanent housing in 2016. This represents a 50% increase from 2013. Housing organizations created hundreds of new units of permanent affordable housing over the past year, along with hundreds of new shelter beds. Beyond the physical spaces, Seattle and King County increased access to services to help people move from homelessness to housing. It’s taking less time for people to move from homelessness to housing, and fewer are returning to homelessness.

Crowd of volunteers gather for Count Us In
Over 1,000 volunteers participated in Count Us In

With all this progress, why are so many people still experiencing homelessness in King County?

Housing by the Numbers

Headlines tell us Seattle is the fastest growing big city in the nation, continuing to set new growth records. Rents continue to rise during this rapid growth. According to the report, rents have risen 57% over the past six years, so that someone paying $800 per month in 2011 now has to pay $1,256 for the same home. Only 29 units of affordable housing are available for every 100 low-income residents.

Who Homelessness Impacts

The new study breaks through many of the myths surrounding homelessness in our area. It also confirms many points that we know from our work. Homelessness disproportionately affects people of color due to structural disparities in housing. Many people experiencing homelessness struggle with other significant barriers, such as lack of access to mental health services. Here are a few call-outs from the survey results:

Local Residents

Over 90% of our homeless neighbors were living in Washington State when they became homeless, with 77% already in King County.  More than half of those surveyed lost their housing due to economic challenges from job loss, eviction, or divorce or family dissolution. Nearly a third have jobs but aren’t able to meet housing costs.

Families with Children

Over 900 families with children are experiencing homelessness. Nearly a quarter of our homeless individuals belong to these families. These numbers are sobering, but we are making progress. Efforts by King County, the City of Seattle, All Home, and partner organizations such as Compass Housing Alliance to engage and help homeless families are getting results. While we still need to move children and families into permanent affordable housing, 97% were sheltered on the night of the count.


The survey identified 11% of individuals experiencing homelessness as vets. Veterans reported physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress at much higher rates than non-veterans in the survey.

For more details on these populations and survey findings, check out the full 2017 Count Us In Report.

What We’re Doing to Meet the Challenge

Compass Housing Alliance works to meet the immediate needs of people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. Our comprehensive services and case-management help set people on the path to stability. Due to the growing needs, we are expanding in several areas:

Permanent Affordable Housing

We opened Ronald Commons in Shoreline a few months ago with our partners at Hopelink and Ronald United Methodist Church to provide housing to families, veterans, and low-income individuals. Hopelink operates an onsite Integrated Service Center including a food bank, family services, and financial education.

We are currently in the design phase for Compass Broadview, another mixed-use development in the Broadview/Greenwood neighborhood.

Enhanced Shelter

When we open Compass at First Presbyterian this summer, we’re not only adding 100 beds to the shelter system, we’re applying our proven, person-centric approach to shelter and support.

Our low-barrier model allows people to stay with their partners and pets as well as store important belongings. On-site support services and case-management connect individuals with the resources they need to find stability.

A grant from the City of Seattle and space provided by Seattle First Presbyterian Church make this shelter possible.

Responsive Housing Solutions

In order to provide more housing at a lower cost and in a shorter amount of time, we need innovative solutions. Steel-frame modular housing allows us to move people into housing sooner. Additionally, we can house people at a lower cost and with lower environmental impact.

We are excited to open our pilot project, Compass Crossing, later this year.

Our region faces enormous challenges. In working together and building partnerships, we can turn the tide on housing and homelessness in our area. We are committed to continuing the vital work of building a world where everyone lives in a safe, caring community.

Interested in following up on this story? For media inquiries, contact: Jacqueline Koch | email | 206.687.8546

Strawberries, stickers and lemon drops: The touchstones for kids to transition out of homelessness

By Corinne McKisson, Program Manager, Compass Housing Alliance

Here’s a fact we can all agree on: Kids tend to tell it like it is.

An extroverted 8-year-old, and one of the new residents at Ronald Commons, Compass Housing Alliance’s new low income housing building in Shoreline, reminded us of this recently when she asked: “How long can we stay here?”

Reading between the lines, her question belied a hard truth: the ongoing uncertainty about the pathway out of homelessness. Having a permanent place to stay was not something she was well acquainted with. From this child’s perspective, her future was still unclear. When I told her she could stay as long as she wanted, she did a double-take, and asked incredulously “forever?”

She could hardly contain her excitement. At a tender age, she has a very clear-eyed appreciation of what a long-term address might mean for her and her family. It represents continuity, safety, stability and the start of a family life that might better resemble that of her friends at school.

For most people, the transition out of homelessness and into stable housing is a process. More so for children. Though we know they are resilient, they are still in need of reassurances. And these can be hard to come by as formerly homeless children vigilantly watch their parents. They aren’t blind to the exhaustion that might come across a mother’s face as she is adjusting to a new place, new neighbors, new routines and new rules. They can sense the guilt that comes with finding a home when friends are still living in tents on the streets and in shelters. There’s a sense of vague longing for a community that is left behind.

With great intent, the team at Ronald Commons has also created a few touchstones for these kids as they start to settle in their new home. We know families and their kids all have lots of questions. They’ve been living in chaos and as things are calming down, they are trying to navigate their way around new relationships and a new community. We are an important part of that discovery. We are a consistent friendly face to socialize with. We are the new adults in their lives and their trust in us grows in tandem with that of other neighbors. We are the ones who plan activities for them to help strengthen their connections to their new neighbors.

It Starts with Small Things

We’ve learned that it’s very small things that can draw kids into a conversation, the building blocks for a relationship. For me, it’s a bowl with lemon drops in my office. A drawer to keep stickers, stamps and gum. These are like precious magnets that start the day-to-day connection points, and keep us tuned into how they are doing and how they are adjusting. It’s working better than we had hoped. How can we tell? My office is right by the play area and when the kids are outside, they frequently  come and talk with me at the open window. Inside or out, my office is a destination, which, by extension, is me.

Ronald Commons opened in a snow storm in February. Now it’s spring. I say that literally and figuratively. Since these children first moved in, they have blossomed. Now that it’s getting warmer, it’s fitting that they have taken an interest in the community garden. It’s almost time to plant and they have joined in the planning meetings. The kids listen to talk of snap peas, herbs and greens. But then they freely contribute their opinions. What is most important to grow in the community garden? Strawberries. Lots of strawberries. The anticipation in their voices is real. It’s also a clear sign that these kids are settling in to more than just a home, but their childhood.

100 Bed Enhanced Shelter to Open this Summer

We are excited to partner with the City of Seattle and Seattle First Presbyterian Church to help address the homelessness crisis in our community through a new enhanced shelter, Compass at First Presbyterian.

The City of Seattle has awarded Compass Housing Alliance a $1.3 million grant to fund the 24/7 shelter.

Seattle First PresbyteriaSeattle First Presbyterian Churchn Church is providing space to house this project in their building at 1013 8th Ave.

These valued partnerships allow us to expand our proven, person-centric approach to shelter and support.

The Enhanced Shelter Model

We bring our 100 years of experience serving Seattle’s vulnerable populations to the table in driving this innovative model.

Rather than have people line up outside at night and return them to the streets early in the morning, the Compass at First Presbyterian shelter will provide access to services and support throughout the day and evening.

This model removes several barriers for people seeking shelter by enabling them to stay with their companions, providing room for storage and possessions, and welcoming pets.  As a result, people currently living in tents or encampments are able to move inside.

We provide on-site support services and intensive case management. This allows us to meet people where they are and connect them to the resources and support.

Most of all, we seek to build a supportive community to help people move toward stability.

We’ve had great success with this holistic approach in the four other shelters we operate as well as across our housing programs.

Summary: Compass at First Presbyterian

Starting this summer, Compass at First Presbyterian will serve our city by:

  • Providing 100 new shelter beds for individuals age 18 and older
  • Offering daytime and evening access to support services
  • Ensuring smooth and safe operations through an on-site manager

Because of our focus on building community, we encourage the neighborhood to get involved through service partnerships, meal service or preparation, basic needs drives, and more.

Learn more about the project in our Frequently Asked Questions.

Severe weather shelters at Seattle Center open Monday 12/29 through Thursday 1/1

Announced by City of Seattle Human Services Department:

Due to forecasted low temperatures, the Severe Weather Shelter at the Seattle Center Rainier Room opens tonight, Monday 12/29/2014 through Thursday night 1/1/2015. The shelter serves adult men and women over the age of 18 and opens from 8:00pm to 7:00am. The Rainier Room at the Seattle Center is located at 305 Harrison Street just north of Key Arena. THE SHELTER IS OPEN ACCESS. Referrals are NOT required.

Hours: 8:00p.m. – 7:00 a.m.

Location: Rainier Room at the Seattle Center
305 Harrison Street
The Rainier Room is next to Key Arena.

Bus Routes: MT1, MT2, MT3, Rapid Ride D Line, MT8, MT29, MT32.

Open access, referral forms are NOT required.

Contact 206-684-0231 for daytime information