Entry Services

For chronically homeless men and women, DESC is the front door to the most comprehensive array of services in the Seattle/King County region.

Individuals who are living with mental illness, substance-use disorders, elderly, medically compromised, physically or developmentally disabled are prioritized for a comprehensive program of clinical services, shelter, and supportive housing that addresses their needs in a way that can end homelessness.

First contact

For many homeless adults, the DESC Emergency Shelter Program is their first contact with our comprehensive service network.

Each night, 383 homeless adults find refuge in our three shelters where they are able to escape the danger, fear, and discomfort of living on the streets, for at least a short time.

In 2015 alone, this Emergency Shelter Program provided 119,290 bed-nights of shelter and 90,301 meals for nearly 4,500 clients.

During the day, the main emergency shelter becomes a drop-in center where people can seek refuge from the elements and access food, showers, hygiene items, clean clothes, and mail pick-up. In this way, a tooth brush or a simple meal become tools of engagement, creating an opportunity for staff to gain a client's attention and trust. Click here for more information on our Emergency Shelter Program.


Connections is a daytime service and referral center that addresses the needs of homeless adults by providing individualized support, basic skills training and referrals to local services and housing. Connections opened its doors in 2006, operating seven days a week from 7:00am-7:00pm. On April 21, 2013, Connections closed on Sundays due to funding cuts. Funding was restored in January 2014 and Connections resumed its operations 7 days a week effective January 12, 2014.

The program aims to eliminate existing barriers that prevent people experiencing homelessness from securing and retaining livable wage jobs and stable, affordable housing. Connections staff work with clients one-on-one to create comprehensive plans to secure housing and employment that will end their homelessness and give them hope for an improved future.

Unlike other DESC programs, Connections serves those whose homelessness is related primarily to economic conditions in their lives - such as the need to secure and retain livable wage jobs and stable, affordable market-rate housing. People who need specialized services for mental health, substance abuse, or other problems related to a disability will be referred to more appropriate programs at DESC or other agencies. Click here for more information on Connections.

Vulnerability assessment

The people who use our shelters are among the poorest and most vulnerable members of our community. Many cope with one or more major disability or life problem that contribute to their becoming or remaining homeless. Among these, mental illness and addiction to drugs or alcohol, and physical or developmental disabilities are the most common.

Traditionally, community shelters have provided beds on a first come first serve basis. As a result, those clients who are the lowest functioning and least able to assert themselves and are often left out in the cold. In order to follow our mission and serve those most in need, DESC staff have created a Vulnerability Assessment Tool - an instrument designed to help staff determine who is most likely to be taken advantage of or harmed on the streets. In this way, those individuals who are most in need, are served first at DESC.

Care, counseling and coping

Homeless adults who come to DESC's main emergency shelter have access to on-site medical care, mental health counseling and chemical dependency treatment. For many individuals dealing with homelessness and mental illness, the DESC case managers, counselors and medical staff are often the only clinical professionals to whom they have access. The care and shelter they receive at DESC frequently reduces their use of publicly funded emergency services, saving hundreds of thousands of tax dollars each year.

Information and referral

Information and Referral counselors are a critical element in matching vulnerable clients with the most appropriate type of services available. Clients who are evaluated and determined to have less significant vulnerabilities are referred to other nearby agencies, leaving room available at DESC for those with more serious conditions. Information and Referral Counselors help clients seek assistance in finding housing, obtain identification, secure disability benefits, enroll in a drug-treatment program or even find a job.

Information and Referral drop in hours are Monday through Friday from 9-11AM and 2-4PM.

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