In anticipation of opening the community room (Big Room) up for shelter space, new tables were purchased that can easily be rolled out each night.
In anticipation of opening the community room (Big Room) up for shelter space, new tables were purchased that can easily be rolled out each night.

Bailey-Boushay House is set to keep its doors open 24/7 for a low-barrier emergency shelter starting Thursday, with funding already in place to keep it running through 2019.

After being denied a request for shelter funding last year, Bailey-Boushay was approached in the spring about providing 50 shelter beds for some of Seattle’s most vulnerable populations through Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Building a Bridge to Housing for All legislation.

Starting as a grassroots operation to serve individuals with HIV/AIDS in 1992, Bailey-Boushay is now owned and operated by Virginia Mason Medical Center in Madison Valley.

At any given time, between a third and half of the outpatients Bailey-Boushay serves are also experiencing homelessness.

Executive director Brian Knowles credits Bailey-Boushay client Jon Weldon for coming to him about four years ago with the idea of making the facility an emergency shelter.

“It’s been my anchor a few times,” said Weldon, who has been coming to Bailey-Boushay for the past 14 years.

Weldon said he was the victim of a hate crime while once staying at another Seattle shelter, his assailants using homophobic slurs and breaking his nose.

“It turned out I was the only one who had to leave, and not them,” he said.

Weldon found permanent housing prior to the shelter’s opening, but is happy it will be available for others. He goes to Bailey-Boushay every day, he said, because it provides him with structure.

“They’re always moving forward and finding new ways to help people as our needs change,” Weldon said.

Bowles said Bailey-Boushay’s clients are medically vulnerable, and also often subjected to stigma and harassment.

“These populations of people are often not treated like human beings when they step out that door,” said Bailey-Boushay House director of outpatient programs Matt Williams, who is running the new shelter.

The goal with this and other shelters being funded through the Bridges money is to transition people into permanent housing, which Bowles said the city hasn’t tracked with agencies and nonprofits in a decade.

Knowles told MPT in July that Bailey-Boushay is working with the city and six other organizations on a rental assistance program that should put 40 clients into supportive housing, which would free up shelter beds for more clients.

About 26 of the 50 people who will utilize Bailey-Boushay’s shelter services will be able to sleep on cots, mats or both that will be set up in the community room after regular services end at 4 p.m. each day.

The shelter will operate until 6:30 a.m., and shelter clients will then be able to access their usual outpatient services and grab breakfast. A dinner service for shelter clients is also being added, and sack dinners will continue for all clients.

Williams said each client will have privacy dividers and a reserved space, to provide them with consistency every night. The community room also has a supply of hygiene items, clean socks and towels; there are two shower facilities on site, as well as laundry facilities.

Other sleeping options were identified by surveying clients, Williams said, such as letting people use the Quiet Room, which has a number of recliners people will sleep in during the day. Because people experiencing homelessness fear having their belongings stolen, they often stay awake through the night, Williams said, so the Quiet Room gets a lot of use in the afternoon.

“These are really popular,” he said. “People really like sleeping in the recliner chairs.”

It’s also a better option for older folks, who may want to go to sleep earlier than others.

Three nursing triage rooms will also be converted for use by shelter clients each night, particularly those who are ill and need more privacy.

A shed has been purchased, where shelter clients can store their belongings during the day, and each person will also have a footlocker they can store under their cot, Williams said.

Thirteen additional staff members have been hired on for operating the shelter, Williams said, all of who have been trained in first aid. There are no nurses after 4 p.m., except for those upstairs who care for Bailey-Boushay’s long-term care patients.

More than 100 of Bailey-Boushay House’s 400 outpatient clients are homeless, and there are only 50 beds, Williams said, so the first shelter clients were determined based on several criteria: those who are living on the street, the most vulnerable staying at other shelters, those who are LGBTQ, people who are positive for HIV and Spanish-speaking clients.

Jose Lazo is one of the first clients entering the new low-barrier shelter. Care manager Hector Urranaga Diaz translated MPT’s interview with Lazo, who has been coming to Bailey-Boushay for the past 1 1/2 years.

Lazo has been using Sharing Wheel’s shelter network.

“Every morning I come here to pick up my medication for diabetes,” Lazo said. “I have very little time in the mornings, because I’m working five days a week. At the shelter I’m at now, it’s very far, so it’s not very helpful.”

Lazo said he’s excited to be staying at Bailey-Boushay, and he’s working with a case manager at Lifelong to find more permanent housing.

While the emergency shelter was initially funded for November and December, Knowles said funding to continue through 2019 has already been identified.

“The mayor’s committed to keeping the shelters going in 2019,” he said, adding the Department of Health Services is chipping in for half of next year’s costs.

Find out more about Bailey-Boushay House at baileyboushay.org.