Construction begins on 77 new homes for homeless individuals

Today Mayor Ed Murray celebrated 77 new apartments being built to provide permanent supportive housing to homeless individuals in our city. Plymouth Housing Group’s 7th & Cherry building (710 Cherry Street) joins 127 other affordable housing buildings supported by funding from the City of Seattle that provide stable housing for people experiencing homelessness. In total, the City has funded over 3,500 homes to provide people who are homeless the stability and services they need.

“Today’s groundbreaking represents progress,” said Murray. “It is also a sign of what this City and its partners can do when we invest in strategies that work. Our ‘Housing First’ strategy works. It’s an often untold story that we’re here to tell today. Time and again, when we are able to get people into permanent supportive housing like this, it is the most effective way to help them overcome the underlying causes of homelessness.”

In January 2016, there were nearly 3,000 individuals living without shelter in Seattle. Another 3,200 people were in shelters and transitional housing at the same time. In November 2015, Mayor Murray declared a state of emergency for homelessness and proposed a number of strategies to address the issue such as increasing resources for permanent supportive housing like 7th and Cherry.  The 7th and Cherry project is supported with $7.7 million in City funds, primarily from the 2009 Seattle Housing Levy.

“The prior Seattle Housing Levies have been a critical source of funding for Plymouth’s affordable housing properties,” said Paul Lambros, executive director of Plymouth Housing Group. “Plymouth’s newest project at 7th and Cherry is one example of our response to the Mayor’s state of emergency declaration around homelessness. This project will build on our ‘housing is healthcare’ model and provide 77 permanent homes for people just leaving the streets, including medically fragile men and women.”

Permanent supportive housing provides a stable home for people experiencing homelessness along with the social services they need to succeed. The cost of one of these units is just $35 per night compared to $130 for jail, $2,000 for a psychiatric facility, and $4,000 for a hospital stay.

“For over 35 years, the City of Seattle has funded affordable housing for our most vulnerable residents,” said Steve Walker, director of the Seattle Office of Housing. “Our investments have proven results not just for the people who gain the stability of a roof over their head, but for the long-term health of our community as well.”

 

 

 

Mayor launches innovative Navigation Center for unsheltered homeless

Executive Order pursues replicating a new low-barrier comprehensive service center based on proven San Francisco model

Mayor Edward Murray took action through Executive Order today directing the creation of a low-barrier, one-stop service center for individuals without shelter to receive the customized support they need to move from the streets back into permanent homes.

“Our strategy for helping people without shelter has to be broader than designating another site in the city to pitch a tent,” said Murray.

The service center will be modeled on the San Francisco Navigation Center, the first of its kind, dormitory-style living facility that provides people living outside with shower, bathroom, laundry and dining facilities, a place to store their belongings, as well as round-the-clock case management, mental and behavioral health services, and connections to benefit programs and housing, all in one location. This facility will prioritize placement for individuals who are currently unsheltered and offer them a secure place to stay and access additional supports in a 24/7 program.

The San Francisco Navigation Center prioritizes serving people from geographic areas with extraordinary public health and public safety challenges, places like Seattle’s I-5 East Duwamish Greenbelt. One of the reasons it is effective is because the model enables organic groups or communities that have formed in specific geographic areas to stay together and transition to the Navigation Center.

Murray visited with people living under I-5 yesterday. Pictures can be found here.

The center will be particularly suited to people with partners, pets or possessions who choose to stay in encampments rather than shelters, where partners, pets or possessions are not typically allowed. It will serve up to 75 people at a time.

The center will be funded in part by $600,000 secured by the City in the state capital budget in the 2016 legislative session. The City is matching this state appropriation with a private donation of $600,000 earmarked for homelessness services, and will establish a designated fund to collect additional private donations to support the center.

In March of this year, Murray visited the San Francisco Navigation Center with City Councilmember Tim Burgess and staff from the City of Seattle, King County, and All Home King County to learn about this emerging practice and how the model might be replicated in Seattle. This visit was followed by a second delegation that included Councilmember Sally Bagshaw.

“Every single person living in an encampment has their own story, their own dignity and their own set of reasons for how they got where they are,” said Murray. “These reasons are often incredibly complicated and incredibly difficult, and we have to address these reasons at a very personal level in order to make a meaningful difference. This kind of comprehensive, person-centered approach has been used successfully in San Francisco to help people move from the streets back into permanent homes. We want to duplicate that success here.”

Murray’s Executive Order establishes a public-private partnership workgroup convened by Department of Human Services Director Catherine Lester to develop a proposal for and help implement a replication of the San Francisco model in Seattle. This workgroup will include representatives from All Home, philanthropy and nonprofit partners with expertise in delivering effective housing and services to individuals who are homeless.

This workgroup will also coordinate closely with King County and other regional partners to provide technical assistance or coordination should other jurisdictions be interested in replicating San Francisco’s model in their respective jurisdictions to address the regional problem of homelessness. The workgroup will deliver its proposal to the Mayor within 60 days and the Human Services Department will then issue a request for proposal 30 days later, with a goal of successfully launching the service center by December 31, 2016.

Murray said the people-centered model of supporting those living outside should be reflected in our citywide conversation, as well.

“We talk a lot about the homeless in aggregate,” said Murray. “What we too often do not discuss are individuals, the thousands of our fellow human beings living among us a without a roof over their head or many of their most basic needs being met. Their situations are unlikely to improve if – rather than seeing them as they are, as individuals – all we see is an abstract concept called homelessness. We can only make progress one person at a time.”

By the numbers:

  • On any given night in Seattle, 2,942 individuals are living unsheltered in our community as of the 2016 One Night Count.
  • The Human Services Department is spending nearly $50 million this year to assist single adults, youth, young adults, and families, survivors of domestic violence, older adults and veterans who are currently or at risk of becoming homeless.
  • This includes $7.3 million in one-time funds dedicated through the State of Emergency declared by Mayor Murray in November 2015, which funds 242 additional shelter beds; addresses encampments with outreach, cleanups, storage, referrals to chemical dependency and mental health beds; and sets aside shelter beds.

City, State to begin implementing next steps for I-5 and East Duwamish Greenbelt

Mayor Ed Murray and Governor Jay Inslee are initiating next steps to improve public safety and public health in the area under I-5 and in the East Duwamish Greenbelt along the freeway in South Seattle.

“Seattle and the State of Washington will work together to address decades-old safety and public health issues under I-5,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Through a combination of outreach and services, as well as better access for first responders, we hope to transition those currently living in tents under the freeway into stable shelter, while supporting public safety in the area.”

“This is a person-centered approach with the necessary supports to shift people into more stable housing,” Inslee said. “I am pleased that the city of Seattle, King County, and the state are working together to assist those in need. The issues with the I-5 green belt are symptomatic of larger problems that we are working on with communities and partners around the state to alleviate homelessness for children, veterans, low-income workers and those with substance abuse or mental health issues.”

The City and State will take steps to: (1) transition people living in unsanctioned encampments under the freeway with meaningful offers of shelter and services; (2) clean up major health hazards, including human waste and garbage, and remove overgrown brush and other fire hazards; (3) improve access to the area for first responders and maintenance workers; and (4) engage a design consultant to make recommendations for deterring entry in dangerous locations and provide positive activation of other public areas.

Outreach teams from Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission will work for several weeks to build relationships with current occupants and offer outreach with offers of shelter and individualized services: case management, addiction treatment, housing assistance, food assistance and medical services. Mission will not be accepting funds from the City or State for outreach activities, but those contacted will have access to publicly funded shelter space, motel vouchers and travel assistance, as appropriate.

“We are encouraged to see the City and State address one of the most problematic areas in our community and look forward to partnering with them in this work,” said Jeff Lilley, president of Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission.  “We know many of these people by name and their unique situations. Whether someone struggles with mental illness, is in need of recovery services, qualifies for veteran’s aid, or has other challenges, we will connect them to social service providers who can best offer the help they need.”

After people have left the unsanctioned encampments, public health hazards, debris, overgrown brush, and fire hazards under the freeway will be removed by Departments of Transportation (WSDOT) and Corrections (DOC). Seattle Parks and Recreation will remove overgrown vegetation and debris from the greenbelt hillside above the freeway.

WSDOT will enhance and maintain the existing gravel roads that run alongside the freeway to improve access by first responders, maintenance workers and outreach teams.

Washington State’s 2016 Supplemental Transportation Budget allocated $1 million which will be used in all steps of the plan. Funding for outreach and services, as well as removing overgrown brush from the greenbelt, will be absorbed within existing City funding in 2016.

The City of Seattle will hire an independent consultant to engage the Seattle City Council and a diverse group of stakeholders within local government and the community to identify and recommend options for access management and future uses. The goal of access management is to allow maintenance crews and law enforcement to better serve the area, not to create an impenetrable barrier or fence. The consultant will also identify and recommend potential long-term activation strategies in areas where the space under the interstate allows for alternate uses. The state, county and city will review the final report and jointly agree on a path forward.

Seattle will spend nearly $50 million this year providing outreach, services and shelter for those experiencing homelessness, including $7 million approved following the mayor’s declaration of a State of Emergency.

On January 26, 2016, five people were shot and three killed under the freeway. A joint assessment of the area was led by Seattle Fire Chief Harold D. Scoggins. Participating agencies from the City of Seattle, King County and the State of Washington included WSDOT, Seattle Human Services Department, Public Health – Seattle & King County and other partners.

 

Mayor Murray issues statement on end of legislative session

Mayor Ed Murray today issued the following statement after the Washington State Legislature adjourned sine die:

Thanks to the Washington State Legislature, and particularly the Seattle Delegation, for their service to the citizens of Washington and their work in the 2016 Legislative Session. I know from experience that reaching final agreement on a budget requires a huge commitment of energy and patience.

“Several Seattle projects received funding in the Capital Budget, including critical funds to support shelter for youth and those needing mental health support, as well as a new Shelter and Navigation Center to help direct those in need to critical housing and social services.

“The additional funding to support all-day Kindergarten and class-size reductions for elementary students will support better educational outcomes.

“Resources to support two additional basic law enforcement training classes will also help Seattle meet our goals for additional officers to serve the community.

“The Legislature’s additional investments for housing and homeless, however, are woefully inadequate. While an additional $8 million to the Housing Trust fund and other investments in mental health and homelessness are welcome, they do not go nearly far enough in helping us address the current crisis. We need the state to step up with significantly more resources for affordable housing, mental health treatment and addiction services.

“I am also disappointed that the Legislature did not approve the preservation property tax exemption that would help us maintain an estimated 3,000 affordable homes in Seattle. In my experience, even the best new bills often take more than one year to pass. We will be back next year to support this bipartisan legislation.”

United Way of King County, City of Seattle, Millionair Club Charity and Downtown Seattle Association launch Jobs Connect employment project for homeless individuals

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United Way of King County CEO Jon Fine, joined by Mayor Ed Murray and representatives from the Millionair Club Charity and the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA)  today launched Jobs Connect, a program which connects people living on the streets in downtown Seattle to work.

“We have people on the street who want to work, jobs going unfulfilled and many generous residents who want to help,” said Jon Fine of United Way of King County.  “Jobs Connect is an effective solution, with the potential to create an upward spiral in someone’s life that can make a real impact. “

With the homelessness state of emergency declared in our region, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray with King County Executive Dow Constantine committed new resources to help meet the immediate needs of people experiencing homelessness with additional outreach, services and shelter.

“As a community we have lifted thousands of people off of the street and prevented tens of thousands more from becoming homeless,” said Fine.  “But homelessness is complex and pervasive and this crisis calls for new and innovative ways to get people back on their feet.”

While no single approach can meet needs of all the people living outside, complementary strategies can have a significant impact in moving people from homelessness to stability.  Successfully working and being paid for your labor can have an extremely positive effect on a person, particularly in contrast to the isolating experience of life on the streets.

“We must shift the focus to longer-term solutions to homelessness, more than mats on the floor,” said Mayor Ed Murray.  “We must talk about opportunity and hope for the future.   I want to thank all the private employers who are making these job opportunities available.  You are giving a precious gift – a brighter tomorrow.”

Economic conditions in our region make this an ideal time to launch the program, as demand for short-term employees is not currently being met.  The Millionair Club currently leaves requests for employment unfilled during peak seasons.

Utilizing a mobile strategy, Millionair Club Charity outreach workers are circulating through downtown on foot and in Jobs Connect vans, focused on engaging and enrolling visible individuals.

Supportive services and assistance are provided to eliminate the common barriers that prevent many homeless people from working such as transportation, access to certification, storage of personal items and hygiene facilities.  The connection is rapid, with an assessment and services being delivered on day one, and on-the-job paid training beginning at $12 per hour on the second day.

“People who are living unsheltered find it hard to believe that they’re employable,” points out Millionair Club Charity Executive Director, Jim Miller.  “Their clothes are dirty; they’re cold, hungry, and have a backpack they have to carry around at all times with all their possessions.  Jobs Connect gives us the power to take our message to them where they’re living, bring them back to the Millionair Club Charity, and give them the support they need to be job ready.  It’s an amazingly empowering message for people at their lowest ebb of confidence – and one that will hopefully be the start to getting them into a job and housing.”

At launch, The Metropolitan Improvement District (MID), managed by the Downtown Seattle Association, is the anchor employer for Jobs Connect, offering work with the DSA/MID Clean Team. The clean team patrols the streets of downtown, picking up trash, removing graffiti and pressure-washing sidewalks, among other tasks. The MID identifies how many workers are needed the following day and fills those jobs with Jobs Connect participants.

“The Jobs Connect program allows our DSA/MID Clean Team to cover more ground and keep downtown clean, but there’s also a larger need that’s being met,” said DSA President & CEO Jon Scholes. “This program helps provide a path toward housing and stability to get people on a track that will improve their lives. We’re thrilled to be an anchor employer and to partner with these organizations to address homelessness in our city. The scope of the challenge we face around homelessness requires that we collaborate on new approaches.”

As the program grows to scale, additional downtown employers will be identified who employ workers on an ‘as need basis’  as well as additional employment specialists, outreach workers and Jobs Connect vans.

As the program grows to scale, Jobs Connect is seeking additional anchor employers with ‘as needed’ positions to be filled.

Start-up costs for Jobs Connect have already been raised with an initial investment of $92,000 from the City of Seattle, and an additional $85,800 raised from private philanthropy through United Way of King County.  United Way plans to raise an additional $248,300 by July 1, 2016 to significantly expand the program.

Expected first year client contact will number 3,000 individuals with a take up rate of 40 percent.

To learn more about the Jobs Connect program visit www.uwkc.org/ending-homelessness/jobs-connect

Mayor Murray’s Statement on the Passing of Bill Hobson

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement regarding last night’s passing of Bill Hobson, former longtime Executive Director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center:

“This morning, Seattle mourns the loss of one of its most compassionate civic leaders. For over three decades at DESC, Bill Hobson worked to house and help our community’s most vulnerable and, too often, our most neglected.

“Bill has been a towering figure, locally and nationally, among homeless advocates. I worked with him over the years when I was in Olympia as he advocated for more funding for housing and services to assist the homeless and those struggling with addiction or mental illness.

“Bill did more than just provide a voice for the voiceless. He was a larger than life personality who fought tirelessly to make this city a better and more compassionate place. He was an innovator who brought people together to pursue new approaches that helped make Seattle a pioneer in how we house the chronically homeless, starting with 1811 Eastlake and our nationally recognized “Housing First” strategies. Most of all, Bill was a leader, one who pushed all of us to challenge stereotypes and move past our prejudices.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Bill’s family, friends and the entire DESC community.”

Seattle, King County unsheltered homelessness continues to rise

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Mayor Ed Murray and over 1,000 volunteers spent the early hours of Friday participating in the One Night Count to survey Seattle and King County, estimating how many people were sleeping outside, in tents and vehicles, without access to shelter.

As expected, the numbers of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness are on the rise. In Seattle, volunteers estimated they witnessed 2,942 people sleeping outside, a five percent increase from last January’s count. Across King County, the number has risen to 4,505 unsheltered people, up 19 percent from a year ago.

“Last night’s count reflects what we all see on the streets of our city – that we have a growing crisis of homelessness in our community,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “While large cities are often the focus of this debate, homelessness is growing in suburban communities and smaller towns across our state. We must pursue a coordinated approach – in Puget Sound, in Washington state and across the country – as we respond to this national crisis.”

On Nov. 2, 2015, Murray declared a state of emergency in the homelessness crisis in Seattle, in coordination with King County Executive Dow Constantine. Within days, the Seattle City Council approved an additional $7 million in emergency funding for additional shelter spaces, safe parking lots for those living in vehicles, and additional outreach services to those living on the street.

Murray has called for more federal and state assistance to respond to the growing need, citing underfunded national and state initiatives for affordable housing, mental health and chemical dependency.

“As homelessness in the Seattle/King County continues to grow, the City’s work to address the immediate need to get people off the street and into stable housing and the longer-term effort to more strategically invest the City’s nearly $50 million in homelessness programs and services is more important than ever,” said Catherine Lester, Seattle Human Services Department Director.  “The City is committed to continuing to coordinate with regional government partners, service providers and the faith community to build a strategy that is focused on an integrated system of early interventions and access to housing which are critical to end homelessness.”

Mayor Murray calls for end of divisive rhetoric on homelessness

Today Mayor Ed Murray delivered a special, live address to the residents of Seattle to give an update on the City’s efforts to address homelessness since the State of Emergency was declared on Nov. 2, 2015. The Mayor delivered his remarks from Mary’s Place Family Center in North Seattle, a shelter for women and families that currently operates in a City-owned building and was expanded after the emergency declaration.

The full video of Mayor Murray’s speech will be available at http://www.seattlechannel.org/Mayor.

PDF of the Mayor’s remarks HERE.

Key excerpts from Mayor Murray’s speech:

 “Too often we think about this as a Seattle problem with a Seattle solution. But this is a national tragedy. It should be a national emergency and it needs a national response. The reasons for the growing crisis of homelessness are many, and they are complex.”

 “In one tent on our streets, you may find a family that lost their home in a personal financial crisis. Go on down the street to another unauthorized encampment, you will find a person who is struggling in the grips of addiction. In another tent, will be someone who is either dealing drugs or systematically engaging in property crimes to feed his or her habit. There is no single solution to all of these situations. That is why the polarized, one-size-fits-all rhetoric we increasingly hear from both sides is unhelpful.”

 “So part of what I am asking today is that we challenge each other to do better without denigrating each other.  Instead of cooperation and a shared voice, we have seen too much division and extreme rhetoric about who homeless people are and how to solve the crisis.”

 “On a personal note, the most painful part of this discussion has been the vilification and degradation of homeless people — at public meetings, on the radio and in social media — as filthy, drug addicted criminals.  Often these attacks have gone unchallenged…Anyone who has known, as I have, a friend or family member in the grip of destructive addiction, or watched mental illness destroy a person’s life and often the lives of their loved ones, knows just how harsh and dreadful this experience can be for the person we love.”

 “As a City dedicated to racial equity and social justice, we cannot ignore the fact that African Americans and Native Americans are five times more likely to experience homelessness. Four out of five children who experience homelessness are children of color.”

 “I continue to hear from some advocates, joined by some members of the Council, who say that even with our unprecedented level of spending, we are still not doing enough. They seem to believe that we can solve this problem, by ourselves, regardless of the consequences. The reality is, to provide emergency shelter to the almost 3,000 people that remain on our streets would cost us another 49 million dollars a year – or double our current investment.”

 “With expanded services, long-term system reforms and an aggressive approach to housing affordability, Seattle is stretched to our limits.  Yet, this is a crisis driven by forces larger than this City, and responding will require resources from more than just this City.  This is why I declared a State of Emergency.  We cannot afford to wait.”

 “The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness has looked at how Seattle spends its money. For years, they have urged us to adopt an approach that is person-centered, uses data to invest in what works, and is aligned with our federal partners. But our City has been unable for decades to gather the political courage to make this shift. I will propose that the city enact these recommendations, creating a new strategy based on outcomes, rather than our current method of simply funding projects and agencies in a fragmented way that does not result in a reduction of homelessness.”

 “I will engage Council, if they believe that Seattle should solve this crisis on its own, to propose how we should cut 49 million dollars from our existing budget. But we must ask ourselves: Should we ignore our community centers in low-income neighborhoods that need more programming? Do we halt construction of sidewalks in neighborhoods without them? Do we cut enforcement of our newly-won worker protections? Should we not extend paid parental leave? And do we lay off hundreds of City employees? Either we believe Seattle is doing our part and we advocate together for more state and federal resources, or we begin this exercise to cut $49 million dollars from other priorities in order to fund basic emergency shelter — that will still not move people out of homelessness. Now is the time for us to make this decision and to end this argument.”

Full text of Mayor Murray’s remarks, as prepared:

“Good evening and thank you for joining me.  Tonight I want to speak to you, the people of Seattle, about the growing crisis of homelessness, but also about public health, public safety and the disorder that we see on our streets.

 “This is a difficult conversation that we as a city have been engaged in, not just in recent months, but for several decades.

 “The reasons for homelessness are complex and ending homelessness will not be solved easily or quickly. There are no simple solutions. It will take time.

 “I am speaking to you tonight from Mary’s Place, which serves 200 women, men and children in a warm and caring environment. These families find a safe harbor from domestic violence, from extreme poverty, from addiction, and from the dangers of the street.

 “This shelter is located temporarily on City property. It is here because we engaged in creative problem-solving with Mary’s Place to respond to this growing need.

 “The director, Marty Hartman, and her team here at Mary’s Place are working miracles, saving lives every day.

 “Homelessness is a crisis – a growing crisis – not just here in Seattle, but in cities across the nation, up and down the West Coast, from San Diego to Portland. And it’s not just a crisis of our largest cities, but also a crisis of our suburbs and smaller towns: places like Bellingham, Eugene and Santa Cruz.

“Tonight in America, more than half a million people are homeless. And nearly 200,000 go to sleep without any shelter.

 “Before the Great Recession, there were 13,000 children in Washington state who were homeless. Today, that number has grown to 32,000 children statewide. This year, in Seattle alone, the number of homeless school-age children in our public schools has risen to 3,000.

 “As a City dedicated to racial equity and social justice, we cannot ignore the fact that African Americans and Native Americans are five times more likely to experience homelessness. Four out of five children who experience homelessness are children of color.

 “Too often we think about this as a Seattle problem with a Seattle solution. But this is a national tragedy. It should be a national emergency and it needs a national response.

 “The reasons for the growing crisis of homelessness are many, and they are complex.

 “It is caused by 35 years of federal cuts to affordable housing. In the last 5 years alone, we have lost one-third of our federal funding for affordable housing.

 “Last year, 19,000 Seattle households applied to be on the waitlist for a federal housing voucher.

 “Federal financial support for housing assistance has plummeted by more than half since 1980.

 “Over that same period, there has been a five-fold increase in federal tax breaks for higher-income homeowners.

 “For some, homelessness is caused by a mental health crisis. Our state has the second highest rate of mental illness, yet ranks near the bottom in access to treatment. We rank 46th in the nation in access to in-patient psychiatric care. This itself is a disaster and must be addressed.

 “Sometimes, homelessness is caused by drug addiction. We are in the midst of one of the largest heroin epidemics in our country’s history. Addiction is on the rise in every community across the nation – urban, rural and suburban – in New Hampshire, in Kentucky, in Oklahoma and across the Pacific Northwest.

 “In King County, in the past two 2 years, deaths by heroin overdose have risen 60 percent.

 “Homelessness is also caused by the rising cost of housing. Nationwide, we need more affordable housing options, and we fail to do enough to prevent people from falling into homelessness. According to the Urban Institute, there is no county in America that has sufficient affordable housing.

 “And, finally, homelessness is only made worse by our own broken system of how we deliver services to those who experience homelessness. We have some extraordinary programs, but our approach is fragmented and not achieving the impact we need.

 “We cannot continue to fund programs simply because they have political support, even if they do not work.

 “We are allowing temporary shelter to be a dead end for too many families and individuals. Some people spend months or years living in a shelter, without a path to permanent housing. This is unacceptable.

 “We see the tents under the freeway. Run down RVs parked in our neighborhoods. People with signs on our sidewalks that read, ‘Disabled veteran. Anything helps.’

“This is what income inequality looks like. This is what a disappearing middle class looks like. This is what happens when the federal government inadequately funds affordable housing, addiction treatment, and other critically needed support services. This is what happens when we fail to reform our broken service delivery system.

 “It shouldn’t surprise any of us that after 3 and a half decades of declining federal investments and a shrinking middle class, that it would result in the crisis that we see on our streets.

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“In November, I declared a state of emergency because 66 homeless people died on Seattle streets last year. This was an extraordinary action to take, and King County Executive Dow Constantine and I took it because we are dealing with an extraordinary crisis.

 “The City Council agreed, and using emergency powers together, in just a few days, we dedicated over seven million dollars in new one-time funding. That is in addition to the more than 40 million dollars in ongoing funding for homelessness.

 “Since the emergency declaration, we have opened more than 300 additional safe spaces – in Downtown for couples, in Queen Anne for senior men, in Greenwood for women, and two sanctioned tent encampments in Ballard and Interbay that serve individuals and families.

 “Just last week, we expanded here at Mary’s Place, to provide emergency shelter for up to 100 women and children.

 “And to assist people living in their vehicles, we announced last week that we will open 2 safe lots for cars and RVs — where individuals and families can find a safer place to sleep, and have access to sanitation and social services, as we transition them into housing.

 “As a City, we now provide a safe space for nearly 2,000 people every night, an increase of over 20 percent in just one year.

 “We are also bringing new services to the streets. Starting this month, a mobile medical van is moving throughout the city to provide mental health and substance abuse treatment, and access to medical care.

 “And this week, we are requesting that the state take even greater responsibility for reaching out to homeless people on underpasses and on-ramps of state highways that pass through our city. This is an area where we can continue to strengthen our partnership with the state.

 “But emergency responses, alone, are not the answer. Too much of the debate, energy and resources have been focused on these short-term strategies. We must shift that focus to longer-term solutions.

 “The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness has looked at how Seattle spends its money. For years, they have urged us to adopt an approach that is person-centered, uses data to invest in what works, and is aligned with our federal partners.

 “But our City has been unable for decades to gather the political courage to make this shift.

 “I will propose that the city enact these recommendations, creating a new strategy based on outcomes, rather than our current method of simply funding projects and agencies in a fragmented way that does not result in a reduction of homelessness.

 “I will propose that we shift more resources toward diverting families and individuals from ever becoming homeless.

“We must shift from simply putting mats on the floor in shelters to funding services that move people out of shelters and into permanent housing. I will propose that we invest in providers that succeed in doing this.

 “We know very little about each person living in those tents – what causes them to become homeless and what is keeping them there. Unless we understand the problems affecting each individual, how can we provide an effective solution? We will collect better data without threatening individual privacy or service provider funding. And I ask our service providers to work with us on this.

 “With King County Executive Dow Constantine, we will convene all public partners and our non-profit providers to align our resources to better support outcomes.

 “And as we address the underlying causes of homelessness, we must continue to focus on housing affordability. Part of the solution to ending homelessness is getting affordability right.

 “Our region has already made significant investments in affordable housing, especially through the Seattle

Housing Levy. Our region is third in the nation, behind only New York and Los Angeles, in providing 8,300 homes for people who were homeless.

 “But this is not enough and we will do more.

 “Beginning tonight at City Hall, we are holding community meetings across Seattle to share our city’s vision for how we bring affordable housing to every neighborhood.

 “And in just a few weeks, I will lay out my vision for the renewal of Seattle’s Housing Levy. I am proposing that we double the levy so that we can do much more — including permanent housing for those who are homeless. 

 “Perhaps as a city, there is nothing more important that we can do this year than pass this levy.

 “With expanded services, long-term system reforms and an aggressive approach to housing affordability, Seattle is stretched to our limits. 

 “Yet, this is a crisis driven by forces larger than this City, and responding will require resources from more than just this City.  This is why I declared a State of Emergency.  We cannot afford to wait.

 “If there had been an earthquake, if there had been a flood that had killed 66 people, the City would ask for and expect aid from the State and Federal government.  And while this crisis has developed over time, the effects have been equally devastating.

 “With our State of Emergency, my hope was that we would come together, marshalling our resources to help where we can, recognizing the limits of what we can achieve alone, and working together to develop a unified call to Olympia and to Washington, DC. 

 “With our new emergency funding, the City of Seattle will spend nearly 50 million dollars this year to serve our homeless neighbors – more than at any time in our city’s history.

 “Yet I continue to hear from some advocates, joined by some members of the Council, who say that even with our unprecedented level of spending, we are still not doing enough. They seem to believe that we can solve this problem, by ourselves, regardless of the consequences.

 “The reality is, to provide emergency shelter to the almost 3,000 people that remain on our streets would cost us another 49 million dollars a year – or double our current investment.

“I will engage Council, if they believe that Seattle should solve this crisis on its own, to propose how we should cut 49 million dollars from our existing budget.

 “But we must ask ourselves: Should we ignore our community centers in low-income neighborhoods that need more programming? Do we halt construction of sidewalks in neighborhoods without them? Do we cut enforcement of our newly-won worker protections? Should we not extend paid parental leave? And do we lay off hundreds of City employees?

 “Either we believe Seattle is doing our part and we advocate together for more state and federal resources, or we begin this exercise to cut $49 million dollars from other priorities in order to fund basic emergency shelter — that will still not move people out of homelessness.

 “Now is the time for us to make this decision and to end this argument.

 “To me, those are unacceptable trade-offs. We are a city of over 650,000 residents, and we must serve them all. 

 “There is much work to be done. Working together, there is much we can accomplish.

 “I believe that we can come together to build a new federal agenda to support affordable housing and to address homelessness in America. I have seen this done before.

 “As a young man, I watched my friends die from HIV AIDS. I also saw a community come together, build a coalition and go to Olympia and to Washington, D.C.

 “We successfully pushed federal and state governments to change policy and fund programs that are still saving lives today.

 “I believe we can do it again.

 “So part of what I am asking today is that we challenge each other to do better without denigrating each other.

Instead of cooperation and a shared voice, we have seen too much division and extreme rhetoric about who homeless people are and how to solve the crisis.

 “In one tent on our streets, you may find a family that lost their home in a personal financial crisis. Go on down the street to another unauthorized encampment, you will find a person who is struggling in the grips of addiction. In another tent, will be someone who is either dealing drugs or systematically engaging in property crimes to feed his or her habit.

 “There is no single solution to all of these situations. That is why the polarized, one-size-fits-all rhetoric we increasingly hear from both sides is unhelpful.

 “Some say that we are conducting inhumane “sweeps,” where all we do is force people out of unauthorized encampments, leaving them nowhere else to go.

 “Others claim that we are doing nothing, and tolerating dangerous criminal behavior, including open drug dealing and property crimes.

 “Neither of those views describe our efforts. We have adopted a middle approach, one that treats homelessness humanely, but also doesn’t shy away from doing what we must to address the public health and safety risks that a small number of people are creating in our city. 

“Our approach has been to enter unauthorized encampments, to connect those living there with shelter and services, and a substantial number are beginning to accept that offer.  We are cleaning up garbage, human waste and needles, as any City should, to avoid a public health crisis.

 “I do not believe it is humane to allow someone to camp on a freeway on-ramp where they easily could be struck and killed by a car. Or above a freeway where some have fallen to their deaths. Or in encampments where some have been murdered or raped. Instead, we go in and we offer services to get them out.

 “Is it humane to allow someone to struggle in the grips of addiction without professional help? We must reach out and offer access to the treatment that could save their lives.

 “We must acknowledge that in some cases, when people are struggling with addiction, some engage in criminal activity that harms our community and threatens the safety of those living in our neighborhoods.

 “I understand why some residents in our neighborhoods are upset about incidents of property crime and criminal activity. But some are also perpetuating a myth that we have ordered our police officers not to enforce existing laws. This is untrue.

 “This administration inherited a demoralized police force that had a declining number of officers and was stuck in cycle of de-policing. Crime was going up in our city. But under the leadership of Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, morale has been restored and crime is now coming down across this city.

 “We are pursuing those who are engaged in open drug dealing or property crimes. We have more officers on the street and increased emphasis in neighborhoods with the highest rates of crime.

 “We have added officers, and are on track to meet our goal of increasing our police force by at least 100 additional officers by the end of 2017.

 “Let me give you another example of the hurtful rhetoric. Some advocates have recently been making outrageous claims that our efforts to clean up unauthorized encampments are a plot to drive people who are unsheltered farther into the shadows, so they won’t be captured in the annual One Night Count later this week.

 “In other words, that we are trying to minimize the scope of the problem, when in fact we are doing just the opposite. 

 “I made the emergency declaration precisely because I know the problem is growing, and I want all of us to come together to solve it by seeking additional aid.

 “I believe that we can make progress. We can do better with what we have. We can fix the broken parts of our service delivery system. We can put aside the polarizing rhetoric and our outdated thinking. We can come together to find common ground.

 “As a Seattle Times columnist wrote this week, the reality of the problem we face means that we must address both sides of the same coin — enforce the laws, but also provide a path out.

 “As we work to address this crisis, I hear the frustration coming from all sides. 

 “I hear your frustrations when we locate shelter services in your neighborhood.

 “I hear your frustrations with our slowness in addressing unsafe and unsanitary conditions in some unauthorized encampments.

 “I hear your frustrations that we are not delivering the right mix of services to those living on our streets.

 “I hear your frustrations, and I share them. I know we are not always getting it right.

 “But the fact is, we are in the midst of a growing national crisis of homelessness. People are dying on our streets.

 “We are working on a complex problem in real time.

 “I ask that you work with us, so that we can create positive change.

 “On a personal note, the most painful part of this discussion has been the vilification and degradation of homeless people — at public meetings, on the radio and in social media — as filthy, drug addicted criminals.

 “Often these attacks have gone unchallenged.

 “Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker, who spent her life among homeless people in New York City, often quoted Dostoevsky, who wrote, ‘Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.’

 “Anyone who has known, as I have, a friend or family member in the grip of destructive addiction, or watched mental illness destroy a person’s life and often the lives of their loved ones, knows just how harsh and dreadful this experience can be for the person we love.

 “The hurtful language we hear is devastating not just to the people who are homeless but to any of us who know similar struggles of those we love.

“The reality is the people on the streets of our city are living harsh and dreadful lives.

“Ending homelessness will be as difficult as any challenge we face as a city.

“I believe Seattle can do this, by listening to each other, by challenging each other, by collaborating with each other. And above all, by respecting those who are suffering.

“Thank you and good night.”

 

 

Council approves RV safe lots, third encampment

Today Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement after the Seattle City Council unanimously approved the mayor’s emergency order issued on Tuesday that establishes two safe lots for families and individuals living in recreational vehicles and cars, as well as the third permitted tent encampment within the city:

“Thanks to the Council for the quick approval of emergency order that will provide a safer, cleaner environment for some of those who are homeless. By organizing better sanitation and centralizing the delivery of human services for those in need, we will work to move them to permanent housing as quickly as possible. While these aren’t long-term solutions, they do allow us to respond to more of the impacts of unpermitted parking and tents in neighborhoods around the city.”

Seattle to open safe lots for homeless families and individuals living in vehicles

In response to the continued crisis of homelessness on the streets of Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray issued an emergency order to expedite the siting of two safe lots in Ballard and Delridge for homeless individuals and families living in recreational vehicles and cars.

“These are not long term solutions to end homelessness, but temporary locations that can be managed to provide a safer environment for those living on our streets and have less impact on our neighborhoods,” said Murray. “The City’s active case management services will reach out to those experiencing homelessness and living in their vehicles, with the goal to help move them to permanent housing as quickly as possible. These safe lots will also help reduce the public health issues currently impacting several of our neighborhoods.”

The new safe lots are part of the City’s overall actions under Mayor Murray’s Proclamation of Civil Emergency on homelessness that has spurred the opening and expansion of new shelters and authorized tent encampments, and increased investments in services and outreach. Opening the new safe lots will occur along with additional trash pickups in neighborhoods, as well as renewed enforcement of the City’s existing parking rules and addressing public safety issues that have arisen in recent months.

“When Mayor Murray declared the state of emergency, the direction given to us was to take significant steps to immediately help those in need living on our streets and address underlying causes of homelessness. Since then, Seattle has expanded outreach services, opened up space for nearly 300 individuals in new shelters or authorized tent encampments and we have invested more in prevention services. Today’s announcement of new safe lots is another part of this larger effort under the state of emergency to provide immediate, short term assistance,” said Catherine Lester, Director of Seattle’s Human Services Department. “In addition to the authority under the Mayor’s emergency orders, we will be able to stand up these safe lots quickly thanks to the fast work of our partners including local service providers, other City departments and WSDOT.”

To expedite the siting and permitting of the safe lots, Mayor Murray is exercising powers invoked under his Proclamation of Civil Emergency on homelessness issued on Nov. 2, 2015. The mayor will send the emergency order to the City Council today, where it can be approved, rejected or amended.

Expected to begin operations in 30 days, the two safe lots can hold up to an estimated 50 vehicles. Each site will have sanitation and garbage service, as well as case management assistance for those experiencing homelessness in order to build pathways to permanent housing. All residents must abide by a code of conduct policy that will prohibit drugs and violence, and require residents to be good neighbors.

The Ballard site, the Yankee Diner parking lot at Shilshole Ave. NW and 24th Ave. NW, is owned by Seattle Public Utilities. The Seattle Department of Transportation has been in negotiations with the Washington State Department of Transportation to acquire a parking lot next to the Glass Yard lot at West Marginal Way and Highland Park Way SW for the Delridge site. The City and WSDOT are discussing the terms of the sale of the property and will likely require future legislation to finalize the purchase and sale agreement. But to accommodate the Mayor’s emergency order, WSDOT has agreed to allow the City to use the site as a safe lot in the intervening period during these negotiations.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw (District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia) thanked Mayor Murray and his administration for identifying spaces for people who are living in their vehicles to have a safe and hygienic place to park. “Homelessness extends far beyond our City’s limits and I look forward to working with human service providers, faith institutions, and King County leaders to create more safe spaces. This is a strong beginning, but not the end of delivering better care for neighbors who need our support,” said Bagshaw.

“Pacific Fishermen understands and shares the social responsibility and importance to the City of helping those experiencing homelessness. We support the Mayor’s approach and the use of the Yankee Diner site. If these lots are managed properly, good folks will get the services they need and there will be a reduced impact on businesses,” said Doug Dixon, General Manager of Pacific Fishermen Shipyard, which is located next door to the Yankee Diner site.

While the safe lots are being set up, temporary permitted street parking zones on City right of way will be established for those living in vehicles under the mayor’s emergency order. The temporary zones will have sanitation services and will be in place for 30 days until the safe lots are operational. The three temporary parking zones are:

Compass Housing Alliance, an existing non-profit service provider on contract with the City, will provide outreach and case management to those living in vehicles to connect them with services and a pathway to housing.

Last November, as part of the mayor’s Proclamation of Civil Emergency, the City Council unanimously approved his request for $5 million in new, one-time funds and added an additionally $2.3 million during the budget process for a total of $7.3 million. Some of those emergency dollars and a repurposing of an existing $350,000 in the City’s Human Services Department’s budget will go towards the operations and services required to stand up the safe lots and provide sanitation services to the temporary parking zones.

In addition to Seattle’s safe lots announced today, King County is studying funding options that would provide mental health, hygiene and case management services at faith-based safe parking locations across the county.

Under existing City ordinances, recreational vehicles may not be parked overnight on streets in non-industrial areas. In industrial zones, vehicles are prohibited from parking in the same location for more than 72 hours. Each of the locations announced today, both longer-term and temporary, are in industrial areas. Outside of these announced safe lots and temporary parking zones, the City will continue to enforce all existing and applicable laws related to parking throughout Seattle.

The mayor’s emergency order also invokes the authority for expedited siting of the third permitted tent encampment that is allowed under the ordinance approved unanimously by the City Council last year. The new encampment will be located in a neighborhood without an existing encampment or a new permanent safe lot.

Since the declaration of emergency, the City and its partners have opened up nearly 300 new spaces in shelters and authorized encampments, including the Queen Anne Shelter, authorized encampments in Ballard & Interbay, King County Admin building & the so-called Zombie building at 4th and Jefferson. Before the state of emergency, Seattle funded (and continues to fund) 1,600 other shelter beds.

In early January, a new shelter with capacity for 60 women opened in Greenwood. This week, Mary’s Place, which is using a City-owned building in North Seattle, expanded that facility to serve up to 100 women and children. This month, for the first time, a mobile medical van is serving those experiencing homelessness in Seattle.

Since the Mayor declared a homeless state of emergency, the City of Seattle will now invest nearly $50 million in services and shelter to help those experiencing homelessness for 2016. This is the largest annual investment in Seattle’s history.

An analysis of the City’s annual investment in homelessness services can be read HERE.

A summary of the Mayor’s spending proposal when he declared a state of emergency can be found HERE.

Maps of the two safe lots and the three temporary parking zones can be viewed HERE.