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About homelessness in King County

The Seattle-King County Coalition for the Homeless estimates that 8,300 people are experiencing homelessness on any given night in Seattle and King County. Each year, the Seattle King County Coalition for the Homeless sponsors a One Night Count that includes a count of people found on the streets and people staying in shelter and transitional housing programs.

The connection between homelessness and health

Poor health is both a cause and a consequence of homelessness.

  • Much like over 40 million other Americans, most homeless people do not have health insurance. The onset of an illness or disability can easily result in homelessness.
  • Homelessness is a public health issue. There is a high prevalence of infectious diseases, mental illness, and co-occuring addiction disorders among people experiencing homelessness.
  • Homeless people often have trouble making and keeping medical appointments due to competing priorities in their lives-such as getting a shelter bed for the night.
  • People experiencing homelessness often have no place to rest and recuperate, or to store medications.

To learn more about homelessness and health, visit the National Health Care for the Homeless Council and the King County Homelessness Assistance & Continuum of Care Planning.

Overview of the Health Care for the Homeless Network (HCHN)

HCHN collaborates with twelve community-based partner agencies. These agencies send care providers to work with homeless people in over 60 locations throughout King County. Examples of sites served include shelters, day centers, transitional housing programs, and clinics and outreach programs. Interdisciplinary, interagency HCHN teams provide a broad range of medical, mental health, substance abuse, case management, and health access services for homeless adults, families, and youth. Our work is designed to help meet goals in the community's Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness in King County.

HCHN's services help meet important public health goals by promoting health among a particularly vulnerable population and by helping prevent the spread of disease. In addition to direct patient care, HCHN provides training and consultation services for homeless agencies to assist them in establishing appropriate health and safety protocols designed to protect both staff and clients.

HCHN is part of a national program developed in 1985 through a 19-city demonstration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trust. In 1987, federal support was established for HCHN through the Steward B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act. Today, over 180 Health Care for the Homeless projects exist nationwide.

Health Care for the Homeless Advisory Planning Council

The Health Care for the Homeless Network Planning Council provides strategic direction on programs and budget. The Council is advisory to Public Health - Seattle & King County and the King County Board of Health. The Planning Council membership includes broad representation from the community, including currently and formerly homeless people.

Our values

Adopted by the Seattle-King County HCHN Planning Council:

  • Access to high quality care for people experiencing homelessness.
  • Holistic approaches to care that integrate physical and oral health, mental health, addiction services, supportive housing, and social supports.
  • Improved health status and the prevention of disease among homeless people.
  • Providers of care and support for their well being and development.
  • Flexible, respectful service models that are tailored to the needs of homeless people and work to link them to appropriate services and housing.
  • Diversity and the effort to eliminate racial and ethnic bias in our work and in access to health care.
  • Effective relationships with organizations and systems with whom we partner.
  • A community-based governance structure for HCHN that is ethical and open.
  • Program staff who are committed to leadership, development, customer service, and quality assurance.
  • Putting ourselves out of business by advocating for the social justice that will eliminate the need for our program.

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Community partner agencies and services

Health Care for the Homeless Network programs and services are provided through contracts with the following organizations. Staff work in interagency, multidisciplinary teams to serve homeless sites:

  • Shelter-based services for families in central Seattle (YWCA Downtown, East Cherry, and South Myrtle locations and Sutton Suites motel voucher site)
  • Homeless Youth Clinic (in partnership with University of Washington)
  • REACH case management program for chronic public inebriates at the Dutch Shisler Sobering Center
  • Outreach and case management conducted on the streets and at regular and other sites in Seattle including The Markham Building, Ballard Homeless clinic, ETS Methadone clinic, Dutch Shisler Sobering Center, and Navos Public Health Center
  • Shelter-based services for single adults at St. Martin de Porres, Peter’s Place, Markham Building, DESC Main Shelter, Compass Hygiene Center, Compass Cascade, Chief Seattle Club and Angeline’s Day Center
  • Robert Clewis Center Clinic (co-located with Needle Exchange)
  • Medical Respite Program - for people too sick to be on the streets, but not sick enough to need hospitalization, beds at Edward Thomas House
  • Third Avenue Clinic at YWCA Opportunity Place
  • Shelter-based services outside Seattle including Avondale Park, Burien Hospitality House, Domestic Abuse Women’s Network, Lifewire, Hopelink-Kenmore, Hopelink Place, Katherine’s House (Catholic Community Services), Kent Hope Day Center, Reach Center of Hope, The Sophia Way, The Landing (Valley Cities Counseling & Consultation), Titusville Station, The Landing (Friends of Youth)
  • Nursing Services at Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) operated by Valley Cities Counseling and Consultation
  • 45th Street Youth Clinic
  • Housing Health Outreach Team – Nursing services at 13 Downtown Seattle Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) buildings: Canaday House, Humphrey House, Kerner-Scott House, Lewiston, Morrison, Noel House, Ozanam, Plymouth on Stewart, Rose of Lima, Scargo, Simons, Westlake and Wintonia.
  • Ballard Homeless Clinic at Nyer Urness Permanent Supportive Housing
  • Boren Homeless Clinic at Dutch Shisler Sobering Center
  • Medical and Mental Health Outreach at Broadview Emergency & Transitional Shelters, Catherine Booth House, Sacred Heart Shelter and New Beginnings
  • Outreach and nursing services for homeless Native Americans at Chief Seattle Club
  • Medical services at Country Doctor Youth Clinic
  • Mental Health, Substance Used Disorderand outreach services at family shelters and other sites in Seattle and King County including Avondale Park, Broadview Emergency and Transitional Shelters, Burien Hospitality House, Congregations for the Homeless, Titusville Station, Hopelink Place, Union Gospel Missions Women’s Shelter, YWCA – Bellevue Women’s Center, Downtown and South Myrtle locations.
  • Health Care Access Project - Advocates work with homeless families to help them access health care insurance and many other services. Services provided at Hammond House, Elizabeth Gregory Home, Jubilee Women’s Center, Mary’s Place Downtown and North, Hope Place (UGM), YWCA Downtown and Willow sites.


HCHN receives support from the following organizations:

  • City of Seattle
  • King County
  • Private foundations and individual donors
  • United States Department of Health & Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Primary Health Care
  • United Way of King County