SEATTLE, WA – Each journey from homelessness to permanent housing is personal, complex, and unpredictable. COVID-19 adds uncertainty to the process of finding and accessing housing options, due to physical distancing measures which impede documentation processes and in-person viewing of units, and increases anxiety for clients moving into a new home.
Despite the added challenges, seventeen clients of the Bridge Shelter are currently in the pipeline to receive housing. The CCS Bridge Shelter provides adults experiencing homelessness with shelter, hygiene facilities, and food, as well as enhanced supportive services and case management. Bridge shelter staff work with clients to ensure they are mentally, physically, and legally ready for housing.
Bridge Shelter case managers have been ensuring total transparency with clients surrounding unknowns and fears that the pandemic brings about. According to Eddy Matlock-Mahon, Program Director, the biggest hurdle for many Bridge Shelter clients is becoming mentally ready to accept housing. Working with clients to find the type of housing they will be most successful in is crucial. Options include location, type of subsidy needed, and prioritizing key programs such as case management, harm reduction, and addiction recovery. At the same time, clients must be “document ready” for housing; they need some form of government issued ID, social security information, and proof of income where applicable. This can be a challenge for clients who have never had an ID or lost their previous documentation, and is even more difficult now as COVID-19 causes agency closures, reliance on virtual meetings and lack of in-person viewing of new apartments. Clients, often already anxious about the uncertainties of living alone in a new apartment with new rules, can feel overwhelmed by these added hurdles.
The additional efforts by staff to reassure clients have been successful, and seventeen currently have active housing referrals. This month, Duane moved into his first apartment in six years. Duane was staying at Lipton Springs, a former tiny village community on Aurora before he was referred to the Bridge Shelter. In order to find him the most suitable options, staff at the Bridge worked with Duane to understand his needs and hopes for future housing. Due to his history of untreated underlying addiction and mental health issues, Duane hoped to find a building with case management and a harm reduction policy that would support recovery at his own pace. After a 14-month stay at the Bridge, Duane moved into his new, private Plymouth Housing apartment, complete with kitchen, bathroom, and even food waiting for him in the fridge!
The Bridge Shelter staff have been working diligently, through COVID-19 and prior, to guarantee individualized support for their clients experiencing homelessness. The diverse and non-linear process prioritizes mental and technical readiness for supportive housing options that will be sustainable long-term.