Photo by Jessica Keller: Construction workers install modular buildings and perform site work at 531 Elliott Ave. W., in April. The site had at one point been intended to serve as a recovery facility in Seattle and King County’s COVID-19 response efforts. Plans for the facility have changed, however, as city and county needs have changed.
Photo by Jessica Keller: Construction workers install modular buildings and perform site work at 531 Elliott Ave. W., in April. The site had at one point been intended to serve as a recovery facility in Seattle and King County’s COVID-19 response efforts. Plans for the facility have changed, however, as city and county needs have changed.

The intended use for modular buildings on county-owned property in Interbay has changed once again.

Workers installed 14 pre-made modular buildings and made site improvements to the county property, 531 Elliott Ave. W., in Interbay in April. At the time, county officials planned to use that site in Seattle and King County’s COVID-19 response efforts as an assessment/recovery center.

Since then, priorities have since shifted to what county officials are calling “de-intensification” at homeless shelters — reducing the numbers of people staying at the more concentrated sites and moving them to other temporary shelters to allow for social distancing. The Elliott Avenue site will assist in those efforts.

“This will be another step in the county’s efforts for shelter de-intensification,” King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles said.

The latest plans are to use the Elliott Avenue site as a temporary homeless facility for people from the St. Martin de Porres shelter along the waterfront on Alaskan Way South while the shelter is being upgraded, Kohl-Welles said. When operating at full capacity, it offers over-night housing for 212 men, age 50 and older, and daytime medical convalescent care. It serves some of the most vulnerable of the homeless population, Kohl-Welles said.

Once online, the Elliott Avenue modular buildings will join two other temporary homeless shelters in the Queen Anne-area. The county recently contracted with the Queen Ann Inn, 505 First Ave. N., and The Civic Hotel, 325 Seventh Ave. N., to temporarily house people who had been staying at other shelters to reduce the density there. Each of the hotels will serve 60 people from other shelters, and the leases are for 90 days.

Final arrangements are being made at the Elliott Avenue facility, Kohl-Welles said. While the modulars can eventually accommodate 72 beds, under the latest plan, it will only open up for 45 to 50 men so social distancing can be followed. Meals and laundry facilities will take place in other buildings, Kohl-Welles said. Catholic Community Services will provide on site case management.

While plans are subject to change again, Kohl-Welles said, once the COVID-19 threat has eased and social distancing is no longer required at shelters, the site would be used for what the project started as: a 24-7 transitional homeless shelter for couples.

The Queen Anne Community Council and Uptown Coalition each approved a good neighbor agreement between themselves and the county regarding the facility at their respective meetings last week. Work on the agreement began last year but fell by the wayside when the project stalled because of permitting issues.

Work resumed in earnest with placement of the modulars last month, but even then county officials could only say it would be used as an assessment/recovery center if needed.

The county currently has five isolation/quarantine and assessment/recovery centers operational in Kent, north Seattle/Aurora, Issaquah, Harborview Hall and Shoreline. An isolation/quarantine location in Top Hat and an assessment/recovery center in Eastgate are available when they are needed, such as if demand grows or the city experiences a second wave of coronavirus cases, county spokesperson Angie Malpass said in an e-mail.

“King County is working to bring current operational facilities up to full capacity before opening new sites for isolation, quarantine or recovery,” Malpass said in the email.

She said the number of people using the county’s quarantine and assessment/recovery sites peaked around April 24 at 74 and has trended downward since — in the 60s the week before last and in the 50s last week.

This decline aligns with flattening the curve and means we have plenty of capacity at the open sites today,” Malpass said in an email. “We are now in a position of readiness should case counts and resulting demand rise again as these sites are part of the county’s longer-term response to the pandemic.”