by: Graham Johnson Updated:
SEATTLE - On the day before Seattle's first navigation center opens to serve the homeless, Mayor Ed Murray got a tour of the new facility from Daniel Malone, of the Downtown Emergency Services Center, which will operate it.
On Wednesday, about 20 people, who were referred by the city's homeless navigation team, will move in.
Soon, 75 people will be at the center for stays of up to two months.
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"It's the model that we're trying to change our whole system to," Murray said.
Instead of having to leave in the morning, people can stay in the center around-the-clock bring their partners and pets and even store their stuff.
It's a first for Seattle, modeled after a center in San Francisco.
On-site case managers will connect people to services and long-term housing.
Murray originally wanted to open the center in late 2016, but the city had trouble finding a location.
Some neighbors in Little Saigon were unpleasantly surprised when the city announced the center would be in the Pearl Warren Building at 12th Avenue South and South Weller Street.
"This wouldn't happen in any other community. No one would walk into Laurelhurst and say, 'Bam, we're dropping 75 beds for homeless services here,'" said Sonny Nguyen, Chinatown-International District public safety coordinator.
In February, the mayor's office issued an announcement saying, "No drug use will be allowed on-site."
But on Tuesday, Malone told reporters, "We're going to have to feel our way through that a little bit. We're not going to throw them out of the program for that, but we're also trying to make it an environment where other people feel comfortable and safe."
Malone said there are no current plans for supervised consumption for people struggling with addiction to drugs and alcohol.
KIRO 7 asked if that meant there will be unsupervised consumption.
"There's unsupervised consumption happening all over the city, so sure there will be unsupervised consumption," Malone replied.
Compass Housing Alliance will open a similar 24/7 shelter funded by the city in late August or early September at First Presbyterian Church on 8th Avenue.
Compass' director said that shelter will not allow drug or alcohol use.
It will serve 100 people.
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