Only handful of homeless people have transitioned from Seattle's Navigation Center
SEATTLE - Montana transplants Juanita and Kenny Todd had been living on the streets of Seattle for three years, moving from one homeless camp to another.
“We lived in our car, then our car got towed with everything in it, I was lucky to get my tent," said Juanita.
They were living near the I-90 interchange with 4th Avenue South, near CenturyLink Stadium when days before the area was going to get swept, they received a referral to go to the Navigation Center.
“It’s hard being swept out, very hard, I didn’t want to go through that again,” said Jaunita.
The referral came to the couple, who just celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary, from the Seattle Police Department’s Navigation Team.
Members have the authority to send people deemed chronically homeless or who have been assessed with substance abuse issues or possibly mental illness to the Navigation Center.
The Center is intended to provide a temporary home for people who would otherwise not be suitable for other shelters in the city.
The Todd’s wanted to stay together, share the same bed and have their dog with them. They're also dealing with substance abuse issues. Anyone of these reasons would prevent them from staying at other shelters in the city.
“There are rules here, some I don’t like, but they invited me into their house, so I have to live with them,” said Juanita.
They want to find a permanent home but can’t afford rent prices in Seattle.
Juanita is considered disabled and receives a $743 disability check from Social Security. Kenny is a day laborer trying to find work.
They’ve been at the Center since it opened on July 12, hoping to leave as soon as the city helps them with a suitable place to live.
The city had set a 60-day time limit for anyone staying at the shelter. It’s now 100 days since the Navigation Center opened and the Todd’s are still there.
“The waiting game is horrid sometimes, but you just got to wait," said Juanita.
According the Downtown Emergency Service Center, the non-profit contracted by the city of Seattle to run the Navigation Center, 117 people have stayed at the temporary shelter since its opening - but only six have been placed into housing.
“There is a shortage of every kind of housing,” said Executive Director Daniel Malone. “It’s just coming available so slowly that it's taking longer to get them out.”
The city’s first annual report on Pathways Home, the city’s homeless initiative, concluded that there wasn’t enough suitable housing for residents of the Navigation Center.
“People who need more intensive services are having to wait for long periods of time to get in,” said Malone. “Because there are thousands of people who are qualified for it and would except it and there's just a trickle of units that become available every month.”
He said until there’s more permanent supportive housing which many need, there will be a bottleneck at the Navigational Center, preventing people from getting in and getting out.
“All of this work is difficult and time consuming and given the state of the severe affordable housing situation in the community, it's going to be taking awhile,” said Malone.
The Todd’s are frustrated but very thankful to be in the Center.
“The people here are awesome,” said Kenny.
They plan to wait it out because living with a toilet, hot water and a real roof over their heads, they believe was promised to them when they left the streets said Juanita.
‘I just want that again, need it again to feel good about myself, you know," she said.