Swedish partners with the community in the fight to end homelessness in Seattle

July 30, 2018 Sherry Williams

pearl Jam blog_350

As an organization dedicated to both the health of our patients and the health of our region, we know first-hand that homelessness in the greater Seattle area has reached epidemic levels. At Swedish, we have an unwavering commitment to provide care to everyone who walks through our doors. Our providers and caregivers regularly treat the homeless in our hospitals and clinics and personally witness the impact that living on the streets can have on someone.

Whether it’s a new mom living in a tent or someone with a spiraling drug addiction, we understand some of the immediate needs this vulnerable population face. And with Seattle having the third worst homeless situation in the country - worse even than Los Angeles and New York - we need to all work together to have a greater impact on this crisis. 

Swedish is always looking for opportunities to be a good neighbor and has a long history of working collaboratively with other local health organizations and community partners to assess and address community needs through programs and activities that provide treatment and promote health and healing. The Swedish Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) was first developed in 2006 as a tool to manage the resources of Swedish in accordance with our mission, while meeting the specific health needs of our communities. In 2012, each Swedish campus customized the assessment to meet the needs of its respective community. 

This work focuses on key social determinates of health (homelessness, housing, food insecurity and need for human services) in our patient population and community and the non-profit organizations we work and collaborate with help to close the gap regarding return visits to the Emergency Department. We know that a healthy community benefits everyone. 

Here’s a snapshot of organizations we partner with. Together, we have explored new ways to share resources and encourage teamwork to impact the health of our community. 

Seattle King County Clinic

Seattle/King County Clinic brings together health care organizations, civic agencies, non-profits, private businesses and volunteers from across the State of Washington to produce a giant free health clinic in Key Arena at Seattle Center. The four-day volunteer-driven clinic provides a full range of free dental, vision and medical care to underserved and vulnerable populations in the region. In the last two years, nearly 170 Swedish caregivers volunteered from our five campuses and various clinics, serving medical care to 4,345 individuals in our region. Members of our Swedish Behavioral Health staff and providers also offered services in the four day clinic, supporting and assessing the mental health needs of those served.

Community Lunch on Capitol Hill 

The Community Lunch on Capitol Hill (CLCH) provides hot, nutritious meals and survival services to those experiencing homelessness and low-income people in Seattle. They prepare and serve two suppers and two lunches per week.  In May 2018, they provided 4,466 meals during 19 lunches and suppers, with 200–250 people per meal. CLCH also has a resource table that provides housing and human services connections to those in need. Additional resources include coats, rain ponchos, sleeping bags, care packs, condoms and toothbrushes and paste. CLCH is also supported by King County Public Health Medical van and Medical Team International (MTI) dental van each week.   

Swedish provides $10,000 per year in Community Benefit funds to support the MTI dental van and human services activities for CLCH. Also, Swedish caregivers regularly volunteer at the suppers and lunches and provides medical supplies for the foot care nurse, personnel care packs, and other general medical needs from the Providence surplus supplies and equipment warehouse in Lacey, WA.

Patient Emergency Closet- First Hill Medicine Clinic

Our Community Engagement Department partnered with Swedish First Hill case managers to start a patient emergency closet to meet the imminent needs of our patients. Our staff was continually challenged getting emergency supplies for our patients replenished so they approached Community Engagement to launch a service project that engaged and involved other departments to help start the emergency closet. Together, they identified supplies needed the most (i.e. adult diapers, men’s sweatpants, T-shirts, women’s underwear, blankets, coats, gloves, men’s winter hats, etc.) so patients in need would be well equipped before leaving the clinic.  


Swedish sponsors and partners with COMPANIS, whose mission and focus is to place skilled, professional volunteers in organizations that provide assistance to those experiencing, or are at risk for homelessness, in the Seattle and Puget Sound area. In 2017, 33% of Companis' 81 placements served our homeless neighbors and those at risk of losing homes, 22% helped provide health care access, 14% served immigrants and refugees, 8% served seniors, 6% served LGBT neighbors, 6% were with programs assisting prison inmates or addressing judicial system inequities, 5% served those with disabilities, 4% served youth, and 2% were with environmental organizations. 

Swedish Community Specialty Care Clinic 

The Swedish Community Specialty Clinic (SCSC) was developed in partnership with Project Access Northwest. Together, we help patients who are unable to receive specialized medical care because of their inability to pay for their medical expenses. In 2017, SCSC cared for 1,800 people living in poverty. Many of the clients are homeless or in transitional housing. SCSC also provides resources and wrap around services for these patients so they have access to temporary housing and partners with Mary’s Place for placement for woman and families.      

Plymouth Housing 

Plymouth Housing Group works to eliminate homelessness by preserving, developing and operating safe, quality, supportive housing and by providing homeless adults with opportunities to stabilize and improve their lives. Swedish supports Plymouth Housing with sponsorships, residency rotation at the Cal Anderson House complex, and caregiver volunteer opportunities. Swedish also participates on the board, hosts sock drives and has committed $25,000 in support of the Plymouth Housing fall luncheon. 

Swedish joins Pearl Jam campaign to end homelessness

Swedish is also proud to participate in Pearl Jam’s campaign to end homelessness in King County. The band is donating $1 million to the cause and is challenging local businesses to rally around this issue. To raise awareness about the homeless crisis and engage the community, Pearl Jam is playing two concerts on Aug. 8 and 9. This is their first live performance in five years, and it’s expected to be one of the largest concerts in Seattle history. 

Swedish has agreed to participate in the campaign by making a donation to support a modular shelter project being developed by Catholic Community Services and King County. With our support, the project will be able to increase its capacity to 72 individuals per night. 

To learn more about how Swedish and our community partner organizations work collaboratively to close the gap of access to care visit, click here.

Previous Article
Maintaining healthy eyes in children
Maintaining healthy eyes in children

August is the time to prep your child for going back to school. Coincidentally, it’s also Children’s Eye H...

Next Article
Hepatitis C and liver disease—should you be concerned?
Hepatitis C and liver disease—should you be concerned?

The dramatic increase in death rates from liver cancer are due to a perfect storm of an aging baby boomer p...