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Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC)

Who We Are

The Downtown Emergency Service Center is committed to providing basic survival services to, and advocacy for, homeless adults in the community, and assisting their achievement of the highest possible level of self-sufficiency. Every year, over 10,000 people are identified as homeless in King County. This figure is undoubtedly low, since many people are not discovered and therefore not counted. Single adults constitute at least 60% of the homeless population. Although the reasons for becoming homeless are varied, there are clearly both systemic and individual issues involved: reduced availability of affordable-especially single room (SRO)-housing; reduced demand for casual, unskilled labor; and an inadequate level of resources directed towards helping people with behavioral, developmental or physical disabilities to live independently in their communities. A disproportionate number of homeless people are from communities of color, and come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Many people are coping with one or more major disabilities or life issues that contribute to their becoming-or remaining-homeless. Among these, mental illness and addictions to drugs and alcohol are the most common, along with physical or developmental disabilities. Many people have been chronically homeless, and lack the experiences or life skills needed to maintain independent living. It is important to acknowledge these underlying individual issues, not to point a finger of blame at homeless people, but in order to provide solutions that will truly be effective in helping people get the help and support they need to break the cycle of homelessness. Likewise, it is important to acknowledge the systemic issues in order to understand why so many people are homeless and to challenge ourselves as a community to provide the political will-and resources-necessary to provide help to all those who need it.

What We Do

The Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people who are most marginalized find homes, health and community. DESC provides emergency shelter and survival services, clinical programs and supportive housing to over 9,000 people annually. DESC also addresses a larger community need: our services decrease the financial burden on taxpayers by minimizing the utilization of emergency rooms, jails, courts, police, psychiatric hospitals and other highly expensive resources. At the same time, we are improving the quality of life for those who live, work and do business here.