Working at DESC | Glassdoor

DESC Overview

Seattle, WA
501 to 1000 employees
Nonprofit Organization
Social Assistance
$25 to $50 million (USD) per year
DESC is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people who are most marginalized find homes, health and community. Founded in 1979 as an emergency shelter for vulnerable homeless men and women living with mental illness, substance-use disorders, and other disabilities ... Read more

Mission: The Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) works to end the homelessness of vulnerable people, particularly those living with serious mental or addictive illnesses. Through partnerships and an integrated array of comprehensive services, treatment and housing, we give people ... Read more

DESC – Why Work For Us?

DESC was founded in 1979 to provide emergency shelter and survival services for men and women living in a state of chronic homelessness and who, due to their severe and persistent mental and addictive illnesses, were not being served by the existing shelters of the time. Today DESC is a recognized national leader in implementing innovative cost effective strategies that end homelessness.


DESC provides effective and affordable solutions to homelessness for our community's most vulnerable single adults through a nationally recognized interwoven network of care, housing, and support, including:

  • 383 emergency shelter beds at four locations
  • 11 supportive housing sites totaling over 750 state-of-the-art apartments
  • Over 200 'scattered site' apartments rented from private landlords and enriched with comprehensive case management services
  • Placement of nearly 600 homeless adults into housing each year -- more than any other local provider
  • State-licensed mental health and outpatient substance use disorder treatment program
  • A comprehensive daytime service center which provides vocational training, veterans outreach, and hygiene facilities
  • A Program of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) for men and women transitioning from long periods of institutionalization
  • Street outreach and engagement services for people who are living with severe mental illness in our community
  • Long-term case management for homeless and formerly homeless adults living with persistent and severe mental illness
  • Crisis respite care
  • On-site medical services
  • Substance use disorder treatment services focused on individuals who have failed at more traditional treatment programs
  • An innovative, evidenced-based supported employment program
  • Crisis diversion services which provides a resource for police, medics, crisis mental health professionals, and other first responders to use for individuals who are in crisis and might otherwise receive no help, or be taken to jail or a hospital emergency department.
  • Consultation and technical assistance that represents over 30 years of accumulated wisdom and strategies developed to address the most vulnerable and most difficult to serve chronically homeless populations.
  • Partnerships with public agencies, health care providers, and low-income housing organizations to provide creative and holistic approaches to client care

DESC continues to set the standard for excellence in supportive housing, winning local and national recognition for the effectiveness of its programs.

1811 Eastlake, our housing program for men and women living with chronic alcoholism, won the 2007 national Maxwell Award for affordable housing for chronically homeless individuals. In 2009, 1811 Eastlake was cited in the Journal of the American Medical Association as proof that Housing First saves money and improves lives; the program saved taxpayers $4 million dollars within the first 12 months of operation.

In November 2008 Evans House won the Affordable Housing Finance Readers' Choice Award for Best Special Needs Housing.

Every day at DESC we see what innovative clinical care and supportive housing can do: men and women who have been homeless for years regain their health, their dignity and their humanity. They reconnect with parents, children, brothers, sisters. They make friends, rediscover interests, and find work or other meaningful activity.

And when they recover their lives, the quality of life is improved for all of us. Our community becomes a better place in which to live and work.

Volunteers are at the heart of DESC's connection to the community. In 2014, over 600 volunteers performed 15,280 hours of service. Volunteers help us in ways ranging from providing a resident or shelter guest a listening ear and a kind smile to getting 'er done in a nuts and bolts task-all of which support DESC in ending homelessness, one person at a time.

While the responsibilities vary, all positions require that you are dependable, have good communication skills and are able to interact with people from a variety of backgrounds.

What we typically look for in a DESC volunteer:

  • Willingness to serve men and women of Seattle's homeless community
  • 18+ years of age
  • Able to comply with DESC confidentiality and volunteer boundary requirements
  • Available to make a commitment of at least one shift per week for six months
  • Complete a background check

Thank you for your interest!

Individual Volunteer: Do you have a specialty, skill or desire to help the homeless community? Become an individual volunteer.

Group Volunteer: Do you have a group of people that would like to make a difference? Find out more about group volunteer opportunities.

Special Projects: Are you interested in volunteering at special events or joining our on-call volunteer list? Find out how you can be a part of our on-demand volunteer team.

DESC is the region's largest multi-service agency serving adults with long histories of homelessness, living with serious mental illness, alcohol and drug addiction and complicating medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS. DESC succeeds where others have failed. Stretching the bounds of accepted practices, DESC's professional staff have learned that creative, assertive and holistic approaches, including evidence based and emerging best practices, work best for our highly vulnerable and difficult-to-engage clientele. We welcome your interest in employment at DESC.

DESC is committed to diversity in the work place and promotes equal employment opportunities for all applicants and employees. We value a diverse work force because diversity strengthens our teams and supports our holistic and innovative approaches to client engagement.

DESC provides a comprehensive health and welfare program for all regular staff working at least 18.75 hours per week. more

DESC supports staff professional development with a wide variety of in-house training and continuing education opportunities, a budget for external training, and licensure supervision hours for eligible positions.

Visit the DESC Documentaries to learn more about the work we do.


We asked staff, "What do you like most about working at DESC?" They responded, saying:

    • The holistic approach.
    • DESC . . . never gives up on people. No other agency can say that.
    • I can be myself when I come to work.
    • Our audacity.
    • The creative problem-solving with my team.
    • The respect, dignity and SINCERE kindness that is shown to clients.
    • Our improvisational strategies.
    • The feeling of belonging to a community.
    • There is something about being a change agent in this crazy world of ours.
    • DESC's commitment to hiring and promoting from within.

DESC Reviews

  • "Great company, amazing benefits!"

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Residential Counselor in Seattle, WA
    Former Employee - Residential Counselor in Seattle, WA
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at DESC full-time (More than a year)


    Paid time off, great insurance, union, bus pass paid for


    You may get a threat here and there from one of the residents who are not medicating properly or finding some other issue present in their life.

    Advice to Management

    Keep on keepin' on. Doing a good thing.

See All 62 Reviews

DESC Photos

DESC photo of: What We Do
DESC photo of: Downtown Emergency Service Center
See All PhotosSee All

DESC Interviews



Getting an Interview

Getting an Interview




  1. Helpful (1)  

    Clinical Support Specialist Interview

    Anonymous Employee in Seattle, WA
    Accepted Offer
    Positive Experience
    Average Interview


    I applied through other source. The process took a week. I interviewed at DESC (Seattle, WA) in February 2015.


    Sat down with the project manager and her supervisor. They both talked about what their roles are in the agency and what the mission of the agency is in Seattle. Both individuals tag teamed asking questions while the other one wrote down my answers. Discussed long term goals within the agency and beyond and what an idea work environment would look like.

    Interview Questions

    • Why do you think documentation is important when working with clients?   2 Answers
See All 10 Interviews

DESC Awards & Accolades

Let us know if we're missing any workplace or industry recognition – Add Awards

Work at DESC? Share Your Experiences

  • Star
  • Star
  • Star
  • Star
  • Star
Click to Rate