A Human Centered Response

JustCARE is an answer to calls from neighborhood leaders in the Seattle neighborhoods of Chinatown International District (CID) and Pioneer Square, for a real response to problems posed by and in encampments – without law enforcement or displacement.

JustCARE Alliance Update On City Hall Park – August 12, 2021

“This is not a sweep. This is not a removal. This is not a clearing. This is the opposite: taking the time needed to make meaningful offers of shelter and support to people based on their actual needs and situation, while respecting individual self-determination.”

Read Our Latest Update Here

JustCARE Alliance August 1, 2021 statement regarding situation in City Hall Park

“The JustCARE field team has been quietly working for weeks to make those connections and show that we are operating differently. We are poised to complete this work as rapidly as possible once the resources we need are provided. Moving people out of the park to no clear destination will not solve courthouse or neighborhood safety, or address the situation of anyone currently living there. It feels like action–but it actually makes matters worse.”

Read our full response here…

“Removing an encampment does harm if it uproots people’s lives…”

— Jesse Benet, Deputy Director of the Public Defender Association

As Seattle wrestles with the homelessness crisis, this model – non-siloed teams of JustCARE and the City working in concert – has been repeatedly proven effective, both humanely providing shelter services for those experiencing unsheltered homelessness as well as clearing public spaces for everyone.

UW Evaluation of JustCARE

Full Report
Executive Summary

“The Trinity Bellwoods crackdown was not surprising. But there is a better way to respond to encampments”

An Op-Ed by Katherine Beckett – The Globe and Mail – Published 07/12/2021

Formatted Op-Ed
Original Publication

“A game changer for the pandemic…”

–Lisa Howard, Executive Director for Pioneer Square

JustCARE is a multi-agency, hotel-based intensive case management program actively responding to COVID conditions for the unhoused in support of individuals with complex behavioral health needs who commonly commit law violations or exhibit problematic behavior related to behavioral health conditions. The hotel-based model of care, developed by the PDA CoLEAD team, uses hotels as a temporary lodging component with intensive case management and residential on-site support.

Current JustCARE hotel-based programs include:

  • JustCARE encampment outreach and move coordination provided by the Evergreen Treatment Services REACH program.
  • Equity JustCARE hotel-based program (serving an acute mental health population)
  • Public Defender Association hotel-based CoLEAD program
  • WDC Safety Team works with all JustCARE providers.
Participant Data

Important insights from these demonstrated efforts:

The common perspective that the unsheltered “resist services” is simply untrue. Offers of safe, decent shelter and a care team which matches an individuals’ circumstances – proffered by skilled outreach workers proactively solving problems and not forcing removal – is usually welcomed. We simply don’t have enough of these placements to offer.

The expertise to offer these care options is readily available in the community. Supporting the resource needs and paying these specialists as first responders is necessary to ensure their effectiveness.

Without a dynamic response from a well-trained care team, initiatives often address only the lowest needs, ignoring the standard systems of “care” and failing to adequately meet the complex behavioral health and legal needs our neighbors and neighborhoods currently face.

This is costly work – but not unduly burdensome. CARES funding will meaningfully improve situations for many on the streets – if prioritized. It’s in everyone’s interest that we do.

What is JustCARE?

JustCARE is, essentially, founded in voluntary partnership, which PDA intentionally cultivates through attention to stakeholder interests and organizational needs. Local neighborhood endorsement and support is integral to the JustCARE model, as it allows neighborhoods to directly align with specific site plans, rather than working at cross purposes with JustCARE initiatives.

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The CoLEAD model of care

All JustCARE lodging sites utilize the CoLEAD model of care.

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Genesis of the CoLEAD model – the team at PDA

The PDA CoLEAD team was created in April 2020 in response to COVID crises and closures. The “Co” in CoLEAD signifies COVID, community and co-responder. A response team was rapidly recruited and trained under the leadership of Jesse Benet, PDA’s Deputy Director.

Responding to this need, in April of 2020, PDA began to convert LEAD resources to outreach and intensive case management teams, designed to respond to the needs of unsheltered individuals and groups whose situations negatively impacted neighborhoods and who required behavioral health support, income stabilization, and basic needs.

It became evident that social distancing, access to sanitation and shelter in place options in encampments was impossible. Like others, locally and nationally, we realized that hotels were suddenly empty. These newly underutilized facilities allowed for ready sanitation and social distancing as well as platforms for intensive case management support for people struggling with complex behavioral health issues and a dearth of legal income sources, as the conventional economy shriveled.

Beginning in May of 2020, CoLEAD deployed outreach responder teams in Burien to screen people under consideration for release from jail, if intensive support were available. The CoLEAD team began supporting participants with complex needs and challenging behaviors in a group of hotels in Seattle and SeaTac. This work continues today.

Development of JustCARE

As CoLEAD’s success with hotel-based response to unsheltered people with behavioral health needs in Burien became known, we began fielding requests from neighborhoods, businesses and public officials, to replicate efforts around Seattle. As the Seattle version of CoLEAD expired in August 2020 and lacked the funds to continue, we began denying these requests in July.

King County Council members, in direct response to conditions around the King County Courthouse, suggested a match between CoLEAD and King County CARES Act funds. We soon realized, however, that a place-based impact in a neighborhood with 250 unsheltered people with high needs would quickly exceed our capacity. We recruited a consortium of agencies willing to rapidly innovate their services delivery to support people with complex needs in hotels, to demonstrate efficacy of this approach in a highly impacted neighborhood.

The County Council then requested the addition of CID to the project to ensure the advancement of racial justice goals in benefited communities; a welcome addition as CID neighborhood groups have offered unified, decisive responses to encampments centering on care and engagement, rather than enforcement or displacement.

Deep thanks

To County Councilmembers – Rod Dembowski, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Girmay Zahilay and Kathy Lambert for being early champions of using CARES funds to address needs of the unhoused and the effects on vulnerable neighborhoods recovering from recent hardships.

Additional thanks

To the Alliance for Pioneer Square, SCIDpda, CIDBIA, InterIm CDA, Downtown Seattle Association and other neighborhood and business leaders who called for a similar approach.