History

DESC was founded in 1979 to provide emergency shelter and survival services for men and women living in a state of chronic homelessness and who, due to their severe and persistent mental and addictive illnesses, were not being served by the existing shelters of the time. Today DESC is a recognized national leader in implementing innovative cost effective strategies that end homelessness.

Here's a look at where we've been and where we're going:

1979
On November 19, DESC opens its doors as an overnight emergency shelter in the ballroom of Pioneer Square's Morrison Hotel.

From 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., a staff of 14 welcomes nearly 200 homeless adults through its doors on a first-come, first-served system. DESC begins as a partnership between the City of Seattle, the Greater Seattle Council of Churches, and WAMI (Washington Advocates for the Mentally Ill) to address the shortage of services in the community.

1980
DESC is granted a license by the State to deliver mental health care, the first step in the development of a full continuum of care for clients.

1981
With increased demand for services, DESC extends its hours. The shelter is now open from noon to 7 a.m.

1983
With long lines at the shelter resulting in people being turned away, DESC develops a lottery system to replace the first-come, first-served method.

1984
DESC clients and staff arrive en masse at Seattle's Public Safety Building to publicly protest the lack of shelter beds. The act results in new community shelters, including the first severe weather overflow shelter opened by the City and King County.

DESC is featured in the nationally broadcasted PBS documentary, Shelter, produced by Seattle station KCTS.

Mary the Nurse

1985
As one of only a dozen sites selected nationwide by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, DESC partners with the newly-created Health Care For the Homeless to further integrate chemical dependency, mental health, and nursing care into its shelter services.

1989
DESC begins coordinating downtown street outreach with DAETN (Downtown Access, Engagement & Transition Network) to establish first contact with Seattle's most vulnerable homeless adults. This eventually leads to DESC being selected for the Federal Demonstration program, ACCESS, and the current HOST program.

1990
Due to ever-increasing demand, DESC's shelter expands operations to 24 hours daily and opens an overflow winter shelter that accommodates an additional 50 clients.

DESC becomes the first agency to partner with Common Meals (now Farestart) to serve weekend meals to its shelter clients.

1992
As demand continues to grow, the lottery method is replaced with a system to prioritize overnight beds for those individuals most vulnerable on the streets - those living with disabilities, women, and elderly men.

Union Hotel

1994
The Union Hotel opens, DESC's first supportive housing program featuring 24/7 on-site clinical and support staff for 52 previously homeless residents.

1995
DESC establishes SAGE, a program delivering Medicaid-funded mental health treatment to clients. This marks DESC's inclusion into the mainstream mental health service community.

DESC develops a scattered site housing program, to assist homeless clients enrolled in DESC's SAGE program in renting affordable apartments while receiving on-going care.

"Homeless women get less attention than homeless men do, even though women face the same difficulties men do plus hardships unique to them - the risk of rape or assault, child-care concerns and, in a majority of cases, histories of domestic violence or sexual abuse."

The Seattle Times, March 24, 1996

Lyon Building

1997
DESC assumes management of the Lyon Building. A 64-unit facility owned by AIDS Housing on Washington (now Building Changes). As DESC's first Harm Reduction Housing model, the program focuses on homeless adults affected by the HIV/AIDS, mental illness, and/or addiction.

Kerner-Scott House

DESC introduces to the region the concept known today as housing first by opening Kerner-scott House, which uses housing as a way to engage people into services. Its 40 apartments are designed to provide stability for homeless, mentally ill, and/or addicted adults with no previous connection to services.

1999
DESC becomes a licensed chemical-dependency provider, allowing both emergency shelter and housing clients with co-occuring mental health and chemical dependency problems to receive critical services.

DESC begins the Crisis Respite Program (CRP) Working in partnership with Harborview Medical Center and King County Medical Health Court, CRP provides shelter and case management for mentally ill homeless adults still emerging from a recent crisis or jail.

2000
DESC launches CHASERS, its internally developed electronic data system that enhances the agency's emphasis on highly integrated services and housing. The system is later adopted by other human services agencies.

2002
DESC's Kerner-Scott House Women's Shelter Opens, providing 25 beds for Seattle's most vulnerable mentally ill homeless women.

The Morrison

2003
A $27 million renovation of the Morrison begins, resulting in a state-of-the-art shelter and day center, centralized administrative offices, and five floors of supportive housing. The Morrison becomes DESC's largest housing project, marking the turning point at which DESC houses more people than shelters them.

DESC extend its prioritization of vulnerability to daytime services, and implements an evaluation tool to objectively measure a client's vulnerability based on his/her health, disability, and level of functioning.

1811 Eastlake1811 Eastlake

2005
After two years of controversy and lawsuits surrounding the project, 1811 Eastlake opens, providing 75 units for chronically homeless people with severe alcohol problems who, previously, were the community's high utilizers of public services. In 2009, The Journal of the American Medical Association publishes a study revealing that 1811 Eastlake annually saves taxpayers $4 million dollars.

2006
DESC launches The Connections program, establishing a center where non-disabled clients can access showers, computers, job-counseling and other services to help them find employment, housing and independence.

2007
DESC launches PACT, a nationally recognized program that works with people with serious and persistent mental illness. The PACT model is distinguished by its intensive outreach and team-oriented, trans-disciplinary approach.

Evans House

Named for a former DESC employee, Evans House opens to provide supportive housing for 75 men and women with serious mental illness, including those who are developmentally disabled or addicted.

2008
An innovative employment program is established to match DESC clients with local employers. DESC's thrift store serves as a valuable training tool to enhance clients' basic job skills and prepare them for retail employment.

Rainier HouseRainier House

2009
Rainier House opens, providing an additional 50 supportive apartments in the Columbia City neighborhood.

DESC breaks ground on Canaday House, which will provide 83 supportive apartments, 25 of which will be designated for veterans. Canaday House is scheduled to open in the fall of 2010.

On November 19, 2009, DESC's Main Shelter will have been open for 10,957 consecutive days.

DESC continues to expand supportive housing and clinical treatment until there are no more people impacted by homelessness in our community.

Canaday HouseCanaday House

2010
DESC opens Canaday House, an 83-unit supportive housing bundling named in memory of former DESC volunteer and advocate for ending homelessness, Nick Canaday. 25 units are designated for disabled veterans.

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