United Outreach Effort at Woodland Park Leads to Unprecedented Number of Referrals to Shelter and Services

With park restoration efforts in full swing, Mayor Harrell, Councilmember Strauss, KCRHA CEO Marc Dones and provider and community leaders highlight successful and collaborative outreach efforts

Seattle – Collaborative efforts to address homelessness at Woodland Park led to an unprecedented 89 referrals to shelter and housing alternatives for those experiencing homelessness, a critical first step on a pathway to permanent housing, progress, and stability. Leaders today came together to highlight the success of the united approach as park restoration efforts continue. 

As the last park-based encampment of significant size, Mayor Bruce Harrell named addressing Woodland Park a top priority for his administration entering office. Beginning in January, Mayor Harrell and Councilmember Dan Strauss for the first time brought together the King County Regional Homelessness Authority with REACH, the City’s Unified Care Team, HOPE Team, Parks and Recreation Department (SPR), and community leaders like the Phinney Neighborhood Association. 

Outreach efforts concluded last week following a phased approach that included a needs assessment of those residing in the park, the creation of a by-name list and deliberate engagement with all people experiencing homelessness throughout the effort. The goal since the onset of this coordinated engagement was to ensure that everyone residing onsite received an offer of shelter and that the vast majority were connected to the best-suited shelter and support services. 

In March, 59 people were identified as living in the park on the by-name list. Of those on the list, there were 47 accepted offers of shelter or relocation to housing, meaning nearly 80% of named list members were connected to shelter and housing to come inside.  

Over the course of outreach which began in January, over 100 total people received offers of shelter, and every person identified by outreach as residing in the park on the day of the encampment removal received an offer of shelter. More than 80 individuals were connected with shelter, including 60 referrals to Tiny House Village options, 25 referrals to enhanced shelters, and 4 relocations to permanent housing alternatives. These efforts included providing direct transportation to shelters once a person received a referral, helping to reduce barriers to enrollment. 

Mayor Harrell and Seattle Parks and Recreation have set a goal of ensuring the park is safe, accessible, and welcoming to all. After closing for one week to begin restoration efforts, the park is now open to the public, though portions of the park will remain closed as work is being done. This work includes addressing a backlog in maintenance; addressing damaged infrastructure; and repairing picnic shelters, public restrooms, and vegetation. Woodland Park will begin hosting larger events and sports this summer. 

Later this month, Mayor Harrell will publish his public-facing dashboard and share further details of his plan and efforts to address the homelessness crisis in Seattle.  

WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING 

“From day one, my administration began working to address the encampment at Woodland Park because it is inhumane and unacceptable for people to suffer in parks and on sidewalks without running water, sanitation, care and compassion. This approach shows that we can accomplish more when we work together with shared values toward shared goals – getting people indoors and restoring lives. I’m grateful for Councilmember Strauss’ commitment to this effort, along with the teamwork demonstrated by the KCRHA, REACH, Phinney Neighborhood Association, and all our dedicated City staff and partners. 

“We will continue acting with urgency to drive sustainable solutions to the homelessness crisis – connecting those experiencing homelessness with shelter and services, identifying emergency and affordable housing, and ensuring parks and public spaces are accessible and welcoming to all.” – Mayor Bruce Harrell 

“I want to thank Mayor Harrell for the collaborative effort he and I convened to bring a balanced approach to addressing homelessness here at Woodland Park. Our phased, human-centered outreach model, paired with shelter and housing resources matched to people’s individual needs, successfully brought the largest number of people inside during an encampment removal in city history. I am confident the phased approach is why so many people accepted shelter and housing and why so few refused. This approach gives professional outreach workers the time to build relationships and assess individual needs. I believe this model will stand the test of time and be used as a model for getting people inside across the city.  This experience reinforced lessons we knew going in – this work’s success is dependent on adequate shelter availability and taking the time to understand people and their needs.” –Councilmember Dan Strauss, District 6 

“I want to echo what Mayor Harrell said, which is that this can’t be a victory lap because not everyone is housed. In homelessness there is no such thing as a good press conference until everybody is housed, and today is not that day. However, what we have done in partnership is different, and it is important that we recognize that difference. And, I am really really happy to stand here to affirm that the number of shelter and housing exits from this work are the highest we have ever been able to achieve, and that the reason for that is that we took the time to get to know people.” – Marc Dones, CEO, King County Regional Homelessness Authority 

“Woodland demonstrated that with the right resources, skilled trusting relationships, coordinated effort, and timeline, we can move everyone inside.   We want to build this opportunity for every community to be able to house its own neighbors.” – Chloe Gale, Program Director, REACH 

“We believe that everyone deserves to be included in a caring and supportive community. As our city faces its housing crisis, the PNA is focusing on our values (belonging, inclusivity, intentional engagement, and responsiveness) to help support the important work of finding sustainable solutions for Woodland Park. We’ve appreciated being part of this coalition for its people focused approach, and for the opportunity to share and respond to concerns from the wider community. In addition, our involvement helps connect people to existing PNA services like the meals and free medical and dental clinics offered at our Hot Meal Program, as well as partnering with community groups to continue to meet the needs of our neighbors.” – Christi Beckley, Executive Director, Phinney Neighborhood Association