Freezing temperatures and no space at some Seattle homeless shelters | KUOW News and Information

Freezing temperatures and no space at some Seattle homeless shelters

Jan 6, 2017

It's cold for everyone this week in the Northwest - especially those who are homeless. An estimated 4,500 people are without shelter in King County alone, according to last year's one-night count.

They are coping with the cold in different ways, according to the count and to outreach workers. For example, hundreds of people stay in cars and RVs.

Others are seeking warmth in indoor shelters, pushing some of those sites to capacity. David Delgado does homeless outreach, and works overnights at a shelter for men and women in Seattle.

Delgado: "We've been having a lot more people that normally feel comfortable staying outside wanting to come in for shelter, but again there's no spaces at our shelter. So it's been difficult turning so many people away."

A few organizations, like Union Gospel Mission, have been able to offer extra shelter space during the coldest days. The Salvation Army is operating an emergency shelter this week at the Seattle Center.

Delgado says even with those options, some people remain outside. He says many indoor shelters don't have enough space for personal belongings, which can be a barrier for people. Other shelters don't allow alcohol or pets.

For residents who live in tiny house camps, the houses are insulated and many of them have heat. Sharon Lee of the Low Income Housing Institute said they are installing heat at several tiny houses this month, like those in south Seattle's Othello neighborhood. 

People sleeping in tent cities, like those operated by SHARE, don't use heaters because they pose a fire risk in the tents.

Outreach workers say this time of year they appreciate donations of men's large coats, hand-warmers and gloves.

The weather is supposed to warm up slightly heading into next week.  Temperatures are predicted to stay above freezing.

Paige Browning can be reached at paige@kuow.org. Have a story idea? Use our story pitch form.