Knowles
Knowles

Bailey-Boushay House is receiving funding to open a 50-bed emergency shelter in its Madison Valley facility starting in November.

Owned and operated by Virginia Mason Medical Center, Bailey-Boushay applied for shelter funding through the City of Seattle last year, but there were more applications than there was money, said executive director Brian Knowles.

The city approached Bailey-Boushay House, which has been serving individuals with HIV/AIDS since 1992, about securing new emergency shelter funding back in the spring, he said.

The health facility already had scheduled replacing its 27-year-old flooring, Knowles said, and also needs to hire and train staff, as well as purchase privacy dividers, cots and mats.

Bailey-Boushay announced the emergency shelter’s pending opening to its clients shortly after learning it would receive the funding.

“When we announced it to them in a weekly meeting, just a shout of joy came out in how happy they were,” Knowles said. “This is something that’s really going to affect change in people’s lives.”

A large part of Bailey-Boushay’s outpatient services revolve around ensuring people with HIV/AIDS are taking their required medications, which is complicated when clients are chemically dependent, homeless, or suffering from a mental illness, Knowles said.

“Five years ago we started to see this change in the percentage we serve that’s homeless,” he said.

That percentage jumped from 20 to 50 percent, Knowles said, and now fluctuates between a third to half of Bailey-Boushay’s outpatients. Almost every new outpatient admission is experiencing homelessness, he said — the total is at 130 currently.

Some are taking advantage of available shelters in the city, but many are not. Knowles said clients say they’re targeted for their sexual orientation — the facility serves mostly gay men — or their medications, which are sometimes stolen by people who mistakenly think they can get high on them.

“They didn’t feel safe in these shelters, physically and emotionally, so they slept on the streets,” Knowles said, and usually a block or so from Bailey-Boushay.

King County reports 4 percent of the homeless deaths the medical examiner’s office has investigated from 2012 to 2017 were “at least partially attributed to hypothermia and/or cold exposure.”

Knowles said Bailey-Boushay loses one to two clients every year to exposure.

“We had the last one happen in December of last year,” he said.

The city is providing enough funding this year for Bailey-Boushay to operate an emergency shelter in November and December, but Knowles said the city has also committed to providing additional funding in the 2019 budget.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced her “Building a Bridge to Housing for All” proposal in January, which included using $11 million in proceeds from the sale of a city-owned South Lake Union property to increase short-term housing and shelter space back in January. Durkan signed the legislation in June, which will increase shelter capacity this year by 25 percent — 522 beds.

The mayor’s office reports Bailey-Boushay House is receiving $322,000 in funding for its shelter beds.

Knowles said 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.

There is no system in place yet for selecting the 50 clients that will receive shelter at Bailey-Boushay, he said, but the facility will prioritize the “physically frailest.”

Bailey-Boushay House currently serves outpatient clients from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the shelter will operate 4 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.

“Essentially, we become a 24-hour service for these people,” Knowles said.

There won’t be any construction required for the new shelter, but staff will need to take out tables and chairs and replace them with cots and mats each evening, and then put everything back the next morning.

“We want every empty space that we have to be filled with someone sleeping,” Knowles said, “because it’s better than being outside.”

Bailey-Boushay House communicated its plans for the emergency shelter to community members in Madison Valley last summer, Knowles said, and another public forum is planned for near the end of August.

“People had questions and concerns,” he said, “but we had incredible support, and we have support now.”

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