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More details announced in Mayor’s homelessness services proposal

More than two thirds of the money goes directly toward getting people into housing

Several tents under a freeway overpass
An encampment in Portland
Joshua Rainey/Shutterstock

Wednesday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray released more details about a measure to increase funding for homelessness services, first announced in his State of the City address February 21.

The residential and property tax would $275 million over a five-year period to help unsheltered people in Seattle—about $13 a month on the median home.

Overwhelmingly, the funds raised by the measure would go toward Housing First style programs; $195 million would fund short medium and long term rent subsidies that “address individuals’ or families’ particular needs.”

“Do they need short term help for their rent? Do they need a bridge to get to affordable housing? Or do they need 24/7 services with housing?” said Mayor Murray in a press conference. “That’s what this plan is focused on.”

In addition to rental subsidies, the plan expands the staff of the City Navigation Team announced in early February from 16 staff to 28. With the new funding, the outreach team would include nurses, mental health clinicians, and substance abuse counselors.

Another $25 million would be invested mental health and behavioral health services, including 5,000 new treatment slots for substance abuse.

“I declared a state of emergency because like in an earthquake as I said at that time,” said Murray in a press conference. “When you have people dying in your city, you have people unsheltered, as you would in an earthquake, you should use the powers that you have.”

He had hoped that the state and federal government would provide funding for programs, but that funding never came.

The mayor acknowledged protests against encampment sweeps, including a recent sweep of the camp known as The Field, and protests against the city navigation center.

Addressing protests, Murray asked that the people of Seattle look at the plan and what experts have recommended.

The city and state’s homeless encampment sweep policy prompted an ACLU lawsuit over treatment of unsheltered people’s belongings.

The Navigation Center’s proposed location in the Pearl Warren Building on 12th Avenue South and South Weller Street got a shaky reception from both the neighborhood and Operation Nightwatch, the current shelter occupying the building.

Friends of Little Saigon, wrote an open letter to the city on February 20 about the lack of communication with them over this and other programs. Operation Nightwatch, reports Real Change, will have to find a new location, which they say is stressful to both shelter staff and clientele.

Speaking at the press conference, Seattle City Council member Sally Bagshaw said she met with Little Saigon, and acknowledged their concerns. “I am prepared to work with our neighbors,” said Bagshaw.