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Coalition calls on City Hall to restore shelter funding

Some shelters were cut in the city’s rebidding process—especially those that provide emergency beds

A scattering of tents are visible under a curvy freeway bridge, leading to a dense urban center full of skyscrapers. EB Adventure Photography/Shutterstock

The Housing for All coalition, which includes many local service providers and advocacy organizations (most visibly the Transit Riders Union), delivered a letter to Seattle’s mayor and city council today demanding they reverse recent cuts to homelessness service providers.

In a recent rebidding process, the city started from scratch awarding homeless services contracts. Some providers came away with more funding than they had before—and some new providers received city dollars.

But in an effort to prioritize programs like rapid rehousing over emergency shelter, some longtime providers didn’t receive city contracts. A few, including Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE) and Women's Housing, Equality and Enhancement League (WHEEL), lost their funding altogether.

Housing for All estimates that the cut programs add up to about 300 shelter beds. In their letter, they say they’re “deeply concerned” at the city’s decision to “redirect human services funding from longer-term shelter and housing toward shorter-term tools such as rapid rehousing that are likely to be successful only for a small part of the homeless population.”

During the city budget process, city councilor Mike O’Brien proposed an employee head tax that would have increased funding for both housing and homeless services—and would have allowed more contracts to be funded. That measure failed, but the city council passed a resolution to pass legislation by the end of March to address that funding gap.

The letter asks city leaders—especially the mayor—to find bridge funding for the programs that will lose funding “until this new revenue is secured and can sustainably fund these programs.”

It also proposes cutting money used for city’s clearing of unauthorized homeless encampments, better-known as sweeps, from the budget and using that money for services instead.

When the city contracts were announced, Housing and Human Services Department affairs director Meg Olberding told us over email that SHARE and WHEEL run programs that were a low priority in the city funding process; they “run basic, mats-on-floor shelters, and [have] not exited anyone to permanent housing, which is a priority in this funding round,” said Olberding.

Olberding said the city will provide bridge funding, but just for the next six months, and that “no shelter beds will be lost this winter.”

Both SHARE and WHEEL, along with Nickelsville, Real Change, and the Neighborhood Action Coalition, participated in a vigil Wednesday outside City Hall to protest cuts to their funding.

In a press release announcing the vigil, a representative for WHEEL said that the homeless women’s community was “particularly hard hit.”

“The unique and loving WHEEL low-barrier women’s shelter at Trinity Episcopal, [which houses 50-plus] 50+ women a night, has been quietly and heroically doing its survival shelter work for 17 years,” said the statement.

It also pointed to Catholic Community Services (CCS)’s Women’s Referral Center and Women’s Wellness Center programs, which also lost funding—although CCS was one of the top-funded providers in the process.

The mayor’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.


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