The bins fit under the bunks for shelter clients. Photo by Joe Veyera
The bins fit under the bunks for shelter clients. Photo by Joe Veyera

It’s been a little more than a year since a former Seattle City Light power control center at 157 Roy St. opened as a shelter operated by the Downtown Emergency Services Center, with the capacity for 100 men.

Thanks to the efforts of the Uptown Alliance, in conjunction with several other local stakeholders, those shelter residents now have access to a new storage program.

“It’s a pretty common refrain that I’ve heard from clients that we’ve served at our other shelter locations,” said Liz Werley-Prieto, project manager of the shelter program at DESC. “The No. 1 challenge that they have in going to appointments or looking for a job, and everything that they need to do in their lives is not having anywhere to store their belongings. It’s one of the things that people that are housed may not think about, is having to carry everything they need for their lives with them.”

All shelter residents can now use an under-bunk storage bin for personal belongings, along with a lock to secure it during the day.

During a welcome breakfast hosted by the Uptown Alliance last February at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, shelter clients were asked to identify and prioritize their needs at the shelter. 

“DESC does a terrific job of operating the facility, but their funds are limited, and the funding they get from the city is limited, and it’s basically barebones,” said Uptown Alliance co-president Rick Hooper. “ … Our goal at the breakfast was to see what additional things would it be nice to have at the shelter, that could really facilitate the residents being able to pursue jobs and get on with their lives.”

Indeed, at the top of the list was a solution to their storage problems. 

“I have always thought of storage as something that we’d really like to have at the Queen Anne shelter,” Werley-Prieto said, “but there are a lot of barriers to making a storage program possible. Space is one, the logistics of getting whatever kind of storage solution you’re going to have, and there are lots of competing needs.”

As important as storage is, it also wasn’t an immediate life-or-death or safety issue, so it wasn’t as pressing as other needs. 

While DESC developed the details of a potential storage program, identifying specific bins and locks that would work within the confines of the shelter’s current layout, it was the Uptown Alliance that then took the lead on pulling the resources together to make the program a reality. 

Rev. Doug Early of the Queen Anne Presbyterian Church reached out to purchase the bins and arranged for delivery to the shelter, while, Hooper and the Alliance submitted a grant request to the Home Depot Foundation to pay for the locks. That request was approved about a month ago.  

The Home Depot in Bitter Lake temporarily stored and then delivered the bins and locks, while many of the store’s employees provided assistance throughout the process. 

Werley-Prieto said the storage bins have provided greater flexibility for residents, along with a sense of security when it comes to their possessions.

“It makes them more able to get up and get out of the shelter on time in the morning, it gives them a longer time they can sleep, because they have less stuff to pack up in the morning. It makes people less anxious about having anything stolen, and it also allows them the flexibility to come here early in the day … grab something that they need out of their bin or leave something behind, go do something else for the afternoon and then come back for their bed,”

Hooper said he hopes the Alliance can continue to be a facilitator between the shelter and the wider community. 

“I think that there are a lot of things that the community can provide, the efforts just need to be focused, and that’s the role the Uptown Alliance is trying to play,” Hooper said. “Finding out from the shelter staff what the needs are, and then turning to the community and saying we need these things now.”

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