Downtown Emergency Service Center

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The Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) is a non-profit organization in Seattle, Washington providing services for that city's homeless population.[1] The organization was founded to aid men and women living in a state of chronic homelessness who, due to their severe and persistent mental and addictive illnesses, were not being served by the existing shelters of the time.[2] In the 1980s the center was funded by the city of Seattle through block-grant money, the county, which supports mental-health case manager positions, the United Way, churches (providing volunteers), businesses and individual donors. 230 people sleep in the two open rooms.[3]


In the late 1970s, Seattle's Downtown Human Service Council Group expressed concern to Seattle's mayor that there were increases in homelessness and that the mentally ill were not getting the services they needed.[4] Because of these concerns, the City of Seattle, the Church Council of Seattle and WAMI (Washington Advocates for the Mentally Ill) partnered to open the center in 1979.[3]

DESC was given the 2012 non profit sector achievement award by the National Alliance to End Homelessness.[5]


1811 Eastlake project[edit]

DESC designed and developed the 1811 Eastlake project to house up to 75 formerly homeless alcoholics. Residents in this housing project are permitted to possess and consume alcohol in their rooms and are not required to enroll in treatment as a condition of their housing. These terms were initially controversial as critics voiced anger that residents did not have to stay sober.[6]

A study by the University of Washington showed a 35 percent reduction in heavy drinking among 1811 residents and a substantially reduced frequency of delirium tremens.[7] A 2006 study by the University of Washington found that 1811 Eastlake improved residents' lives and saved Seattle more than $2 million each year.[8]

Housing First[edit]

DESC partnered with Pathways to Housing to sponsor the first ever conference on the Housing First model of social services.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rasmussen, Tom; Peter Steinbrueck (2005-02-16). "Council's homeless-services center option: cheaper, sooner, bigger". Online edition. The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-09-16.
  2. ^ History of DESC
  3. ^ a b Hope, Majorie; James Young (January 18, 1984). "The Homeless: On the Street, on the Road". Christian Century: 48.
  4. ^ "Strategies for reducing chronic street homelessness: final report". Martha R. Burt, Walter R. McDonald & Associates, Urban Institute, United States. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. pp. G.3. Retrieved 2009-09-18. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ NAEH Annual Awards Ceremony
  6. ^ Kowal, Jessica (2006-07-05). "Homeless Alcoholics Receive a Permanent Place to Live, and Drink". The New York Times.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Vanderkam, Laura (2008-04-28). "Give them homes". USA Today. pp. 9A. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  9. ^ "Housing First Conference in New Orleans brings leaders together to improve, share this successful model | News | Media Center | United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)". 2012-03-26. Archived from the original on 2012-04-29. Retrieved 2012-06-01.

External links[edit]