The pandemic presented Seattle, Washington, with a crisis and an opportunity. In early 2020, authorities closed congregate shelters, emptied jails, and stopped new arrests for minor crimes. Lisa Daugaard, a lawyer, saw a rare chance to develop a new approach to address homelessness that didn’t involve law enforcement. Daugaard and her colleagues created a program now known as JustCare. JustCare staff members, rather than police officers, could respond to urgent calls about encampments, and after building trust with the local homeless people, workers would move them into housing without strict abstinence requirements. Works could then help clean up the sites. Police are only contacted as a last resort. Between the fall of 2020 and the past spring, JustCare closed 14 encampments and placed over 400 people in hotels and other lodging. Of the 135 people who have not found permanent homes by March, about two-thirds have now done so and 21% are in various stages of getting the documents and access to housing that they need.

Read Full Story