Seattle looks to Tacoma to help solve homeless crisis

TACOMA, Wash. – Some ideas on how to solve Seattle’s homeless problem may be found in the South Sound.

On Wednesday, a Seattle City Councilmember toured an enhanced shelter near the Tacoma Dome to see how the City of Destiny is getting homeless people off the streets and into stable housing.

Both cities have declared homelessness emergencies, and both have enhanced shelters.

Now, lessons learned in Tacoma could help more people in Seattle get off the streets.

Tacoma’s Dome District Stability Site is tucked away near Puyallup and Portland Avenues and it houses scores of people who used to live on the streets.

“We have a long way to go,” said Tacoma City Councilmember Ryan Mello. “We have a lot of challenges it’s a huge crisis in Tacoma as well.

Mellow was joined Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda for a tour of Tacoma’s stability site to get a first-hand look at how the Tacoma is helping turn a third of their homeless clients into stable housing.

“It’s critical to know the difference between a mat on the ground shelter and what we saw,” said Mosqueda. “People have a place to stay 24/7, lockers, showers, toilets, case managers. That’s absolutely critical to becoming stabilized.”


Seattle’s enhances shelters are moving about one-fifth of their clients in stable housing.

The shelter also offers security and on-site case management.

“We know the causes of homelessness in our respective cities are because of the lack of affordable housing, lack of folks being able to have enough income to afford housing, evictions and domestic violence,” said Mello.

Plus, using modular shelters seen in Tacoma, Mosqueda hopes to move the Tacoma idea northwards.

“That is absolutely worth the investment it is a small amount of money to create structures they need,” she said. “They have a door; a roof and we have to couple with case management and 24/7 staffing.”

Mosqueda says 40 of the modular shelters would cost about $300,000.

The end game for both Tacoma and Seattle councilmembers is to place as many into permanent housing as possible but expensive rents across Puget Sound means that remains a challenge.

However, says Mosqueda, avoiding the investment now in Seattle could cost taxpayers even more in the future.

“Having to pay much more down the road for health care housing instability created by living outside,” she said.

The Seattle City Council housing, health, energy and worker’s rights committee could discuss Mosqueda’s findings Thursday during its regularly scheduled meeting.