Homelessness Outreach and Provider Ecosystem (HOPE) Team

As part of the 2021 budget, the City changed its encampment outreach response from the multi-disciplinary Navigation Team to the Homelessness Outreach and Provider Ecosystem (HOPE) Team.

What does the HOPE Team do?

The HOPE Team, within the City of Seattle Human Services Department (HSD), coordinates citywide efforts by outreach, shelter providers, City departments, and community to connect people living unsheltered in Seattle to services and shelter. The HOPE Team also coordinates outreach to high-priority areas where people living unsheltered need support and connections to shelter prior to an encampment removal. However, the HOPE Team does not lead encampment removal operations. In 2022, the City is actively working with the new King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) to partner on a robust encampment outreach strategy.

The HOPE Team also coordinates shelter referrals, based on service match recommendations from outreach providers to certain City-funded shelters, including hundreds of new shelter resources that came online last year. These HOPE Team "set-aside" shelter resources represent approximately 30% of all City-funded shelter beds. Through this process in 2021, the HOPE Team made over 1,200 referrals to open shelter resources from 119 different encampment locations while partnering with 32 different outreach and service organizations.

How Referrals to Shelter Work

The referral process begins with a needs and/or shelter assessment by outreach providers with an individual experiencing unsheltered homelessness. Assessments help the provider and individual identify which shelters are a potential fit for the individual based on entrance criteria, service level, and identified vulnerability characteristics that help prioritize placement.

That information is matched with daily shelter vacancy reporting by City-funded shelter providers in Chatbox, a digital platform that allows for real-time tracking of open shelter spaces. The HOPE Team then receives recommendations for open shelter beds from outreach providers. When a match is made between an individual and an open shelter resource by the team, a recommendation becomes a referral. If there are more recommendations than open beds, the team uses client vulnerabilities and encampment location to decide which recommendations receive the referrals. The HOPE Team then communicates referrals back to the provider who made the recommendation and to the shelter who will be receiving the individual.

The HOPE Team may prioritize recommendations from active City department-identified high-priority sites (such as those facing imminent removal due to hazard, construction, or Multi-Departmental Administrative Rules (MDAR) removal. When prioritizing recommendations from high-priority sites, individual vulnerabilities are still a driving factor when making referrals.

The HOPE Team strives for equity and inclusion, across race, gender, age, and disability when coordinating shelter referrals. In 2021, 66% of HOPE Team shelter referrals were made to people experiencing homelessness who are black, indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC). This compares to 52% of King County's homeless population who were identified as BIPOC in the last Point In Time Count in 2020, while only representing 33% of King County's total population.

Flow chart showing referral process for individuals living unsheltered to get into shelter and housing.

Contacts for Service Providers:

HOPE Team Referral Process FAQ:

The HOPE Team coordinates the shelter recommendations made by outreach providers on behalf of individuals experiencing homelessness and connects the recommendations to open shelter beds such as enhanced shelter and tiny home villages.

No. The HOPE Team only coordinates the recommendation and referral process into City of Seattle-funded HOPE Team "set-aside" beds, which represent about 30% of the overall City-funded shelter system.

Coordinating the recommendation and referral process means:   

  • HOPE Team manages the vacancy reporting for HOPE Team shelter set-aside beds for outreach providers
  • HOPE Team receives recommendations for open shelter beds from outreach providers based on service matching conversations between the provider and the individual
  • HOPE Team connects those recommendations to open beds (when a match is made a recommendation becomes a referral)  

In these instances, the HOPE Team prioritizes recommendations from:

  • people with the highest vulnerabilities from active high-priority sites, and
  • individuals that have multiple vulnerabilities regardless of encampment location.

Connecting people to open beds is more of an art than an exact science. The prioritization process strives to:

A) ensure that the most vulnerable members of the unhoused community can come indoors as quickly as possible.

B) help people get indoors from encampments that may be subject to a removal.

No. Removals are led by City departments that either own or manage public property.

When City departments have prioritized a location, the HOPE Team coordinates outreach efforts at the location with the goal of resolving the site through outreach strategies alone. If a site cannot be resolved through outreach alone, the site may move to an encampment removal process under the City's MDARs.

The HOPE Team does not carry out the operations of an encampment removal but ensures that all those residing onsite receive offers of shelter. In addition to 'high-priority' sites, the HOPE Team coordinates requests for outreach from community and City departments, among others. These include sites where an individual may need extra support connecting to services or where an encampment needs support to be good neighbors within the community.

The HOPE Team triages requests for outreach in the following order:

  1. Requests for support for vulnerable individuals
  2. Requests for outreach to high-priority sites
  3. Requests for neighborhood concerns regarding behaviors impacting an encampment's relationship with its neighbors