DESC Mary Pilgrim Inn
At the end of October 2021, DESC began to operate the Mary Pilgrim Inn, a new supportive emergency housing program with robust supportive services. King County bought a former hotel in July 2021, under the Health Through Housing program. It was permanently converted into private and semi-private units of emergency–temporary–housing, which DESC operates under a contract with King County.
King County announced the opening in a media event on Oct. 27.
The facility is the first to operate under DESC’s new model, a better alternative to the conventional model of crowded, congregate emergency shelter.
Eligible guests are single, highly vulnerable, disabled adults who are experiencing long-term homelessness.
DESC Mary Pilgrim Inn partially replaces the temporary arrangements we have had in Renton during the pandemic. It was a priority for both the county and for DESC to retain the bed capacity we had had there since spring 2020.
While it is emergency housing, this is not a walkup shelter, nor does it offer walkup services. Rooms are available only through referral, for quick access when a person has no housing, where they can be safe and comfortable while they prepare for their next steps.
Referrals come from local homeless service providers, first responders, hospitals and the surrounding community.
The time that a guest may stay in this housing is not limited, but it is not intended to be a permanent home. It offers basic amenities and safe, private, dignified spaces where people may temporarily live while they search for or wait to be placed in permanent housing.
The facility is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, offering supportive wrap-around services. Additionally, residents abide by DESC’s good neighbor agreement.
During the time since spring 2020 we have learned that hotel rooms work better for our guests than congregate shelter. DESC saw many advantages to private rooms as we operated the Renton hotel shelter during the pandemic. The operation has been on the whole very positive, according to a University of Washington study, “Impact of Hotels as Non-Congregate Emergency Shelters,” described here by UW News, and in Huff Post’s “Put Homeless People in Hotels.”
Our clients in the Renton hotel shelter showed us that when people have their own private space with a locking door, a bed and bathroom, they are better able to stabilize and feel like they can take advantage of supportive and recovery services.