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.”

 

 

Murray convenes first meeting of national Mayors and Police Chiefs Task Force

Today Mayor Ed Murray is in Washington, D.C. attending the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where he convened the first Mayors and Police Chiefs Task Force meeting to share best practices and policies regarding police reform. Today’s discussion focused on ways departments can improve police interactions with people in mental health and chemical dependency crisis. Mayor Murray also discussed the Seattle Police Department’s progress towards compliance under a federal consent decree through progressive reform efforts led by Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole.

“The Seattle Police Department has made remarkable progress in the past two years,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Our efforts have been noted by the federal monitor, who has provided our department with appreciable support as we make significant changes to policies, de-escalation training, and oversight of policing activities. Under the leadership of Chief O’Toole, it is my hope Seattle can serve as a national model of urban policing and reform.”

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) has taken meaningful steps to enhance public trust and carry out reforms to address excessive force and biased policing since being placed under a federal consent decree in 2012. Mayor Murray named Kathleen O’Toole police chief in 2014 to lead the SPD and has been credited by the federal monitor for moving the department forward in its reform efforts. Patrol officers throughout the department have been equipped with enhanced training in de-escalation and in interacting with individuals in crisis due to mental health or chemical dependency. These trainings provide police with vital skillsets that can be used to reduce incidents of use of force. The White House recently recognized SPD’s reform efforts, and invited Chief O’Toole to attend the State of the Union as First Lady Michelle Obama’s guest.

“SPD has made great progress toward reform and our efforts are paying off, but we recognize there is still work to be done,” said Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole.  “We will continue to work collaboratively with the community, our federal partners and the monitoring team to enhance public trust and further professionalize the SPD.”

Chief O’Toole also addressed the task force, along with U.S. Department of Justice’s Ron Davis, director of Community Oriented Police Services, and Dr. Antonio Oftelie of the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard.

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.

Move Seattle begins with Beacon Hill paved trail for students

Thanks to voter-approved funds provided by the Move Seattle levy, today the City of Seattle began construction on its first 2016 Safe Routes to School project at Mercer Middle School.

“Thanks to Seattle voters’ approval of Move Seattle, we will make major investments to maintain our roads and bridges, make our streets safer, and give people new options to move around and through Seattle,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Our Move Seattle investments begin right here, with the groundbreaking of our first Safe Routes to School project of 2016.”

Following through on the levy commitment to complete a Safe Routes project at every public school in the city, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is building a paved, off-street trail to give Beacon Hill schoolchildren a safer place to walk and bike.

Approved by voters in November 2015, the nine-year, $930 million Levy to Move Seattle provides funding for Safe Routes ($207 million), Maintenance and Repair ($420 million) and Congestion Relief ($303 million).

Parallel to the busy 15th Avenue S, the new trail at Mercer Middle School will replace a gravel path and connect the northeast entrance of the school to a pedestrian crossing at South Spokane Street and Lafayette Avenue South. Approximately 2,000 feet long, the 12-foot wide path will be adjacent to Jefferson Park on Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) property and connect two neighborhood greenways. The project is a partnership of the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation, SPU and SDOT.

SDOT will construct 12 Safe Routes to School projects this year, encouraging active commuting by schoolchildren and families. The Safe Routes program is part of Vision Zero, the city’s plan to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. Safe Routes projects improve safety for communities by building healthy places where kids can safely walk and bike to school and through their neighborhood.

Thanks to Move Seattle levy funds, SDOT has budgeted $6.7 million for Safe Routes to School projects at the following schools in 2016:

  • Aki Kurose Middle School
  • Arbor Heights Elementary
  • Bailey Gatzert Elementary
  • DF Day Elementary
  • Bryant Elementary
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary
  • Mercer Middle School
  • Montlake Elementary
  • Rainier Beach High School
  • Salmon Bay Elementary
  • Sanislo Elementary
  • South Shore K-8

“Safety, especially for children, is the number one priority for SDOT,” said SDOT Director Scott Kubly. “Connecting neighborhood greenways and next to a park, this Move Seattle Levy funded trail will keep our most vulnerable residents safe as they travel daily to and from school.”

A Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) grant is funding education and encouragement aspects of the project. Construction is funded through Seattle’s local funds and the grant, with the total cost of project construction estimated at $955,000.

To learn more about the Safe Routes to School Five Year Action Plan, please visit:  http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/srts/SRTSActionPlan.pdf.

For more information about the Mercer Middle School project, please visit: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/SafeRoutesMercerMiddle.htm

Murray convenes Chinatown/International District task force

Mayor Ed Murray announced the convening of a special task force for the Chinatown/International District (C/ID) neighborhood. Following the murder of long-time community activist Donnie Chin this summer, Mayor Murray reached out to local leaders and called on them to work with City staff and the Seattle Police Department to help address public safety and livability in the C/ID. Tuesday marks the first meeting of the task force.

“The loss of Donnie Chin has left a void in the community. We must take steps to support the neighborhood and challenge the entrenched issues it has faced for decades,” said Mayor Murray. “I look forward to the task force’s findings as they build on Donnie’s legacy and identify ways to improve economic development, the built environment, and public safety in one of our most diverse and historic neighborhoods.”

Community organizations, advocates, and businesses point to persistent language and cultural barriers as obstacles for the City to respond effectively to community needs. More than three-fourths of C/ID residents are people of color and more than half speak a language other than English at home. Six out of ten residents are of Asian descent.

“The Chinatown-International District is one of the most unique neighborhoods in Seattle. We remain a cultural center for many Asian-Pacific Islander communities,” said task force co-chair Maiko Winkler-Chin. “We look forward to working with the City and local advocates to identify systemic changes and new ways to improve the livability and vitality of a place many of us consider home.”

Murray has asked the task force to develop strategies to improve neighborhood policing and economic development.  The task force will also identify baseline crime, social, health and housing data that can support the City’s responsiveness and policy planning, and help track progress. The task force will report its findings to the Mayor in the spring of 2016. –

Serving on the C/ID Task Force are the following business and community leaders:

  • Maiko Winkler-Chin, (Co-Chair), Executive Director, Seattle Chinatown-ID Preservation & Development Authority
  • Tam Nguyen, (Co-Chair), Owner, Tamarind Tree, Board President, Friends of Little Saigon
  • Sharyne Shiu-Thornton, Board Member, Seattle Indian Health Board
  • David Leong, Board President, Greater Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce
  • Richard Mar, Board President, International District Emergency Center
  • Minh-Duc Nguyen, Executive Director, Helping Link
  • Sue May Ho, Board President, Chong Wa Benevolent Association
  • Sheila Burrus, Community member, Filipino Am community
  • I-Miun Liu, Business Owner, Oasis Tea Zone, Eastern Café, Board Member CIDBIA
  • Sokha Danh, Economic Development Specialist, SCIDpda
  • Abdi Mohamed, Organizer, Working Washington
  • Zamzam Mohamed, CEO, Voices of Tomorrow
  • Larry Larson, Manager, American Hotel
  • Greg Garcia, Community Impact Manager, United Way
  • Paul Murakami, Property Owner, Nisei Vets
  • Ron Chew, Executive Director, ICHS Foundation
  • Sonny Nguyen, Engagement Coordinator, Washington Bus
  • Karen Yoshitomi, Executive Director, Japanese Cultural & Community Center
  • Alan Lai, Coordinator, Chinese Information & Service Center

Murray statement on timeline for proposed police accountability and civilian oversight reforms

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray today issued the following statement regarding the timeline for proposed reforms to the Seattle Police Department’s accountability and civilian oversight system:

“After months of hard work and deliberations with the CPC, the OPA, OPA Auditor and Chief O’Toole, I was pleased to jointly submit with community stakeholders to the Federal Monitor and Court in late September a series of recommendations to strengthen the police accountability and civilian oversight system for SPD.

“Passing and implementing police accountability reforms must follow the process set forth by the Court and the Monitor. I am encouraged that the Monitor has now set a timetable to respond to our joint recommendations. As has been done since I first took office in January of 2014, the City will continue working collaboratively with the Department of Justice, the Federal Court and the Monitor to fulfill the requirements under the federal consent decree.

“SPD has made significant strides in the last two years toward becoming a national model for urban policing. We must build on that progress with meaningful reforms to our civilian oversight and police accountability system.”

Mayor’s statement on monitor’s findings on Force Review Board

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray today issued the following statement after the Federal Monitor Merrick Bobb found the Seattle Police Department’s Force Review Board to be in initial compliance with the court-ordered agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice:

“The federal monitor recognizes a renewed culture of accountability at the Seattle Police Department. We continue to make strides forward thanks to the leadership of Chief O’Toole and the demonstrated commitment of our officers. With new training on de-escalation and use of force, our officers are better equipped to manage tense situations in the field. When an officer does resort to force, SPD has developed additional safeguards to ensure the department is asking the right questions about training, equipment and the individual officer’s decision making. We continue to make headway on my goal to make Seattle a model for urban policing in America.”

Murray condemns hate crime in Palm Springs

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray today issued the following statement after George Zander, a leader in California’s LGBT community and native of Seattle, and his husband Chris were brutally assaulted in a hate crime in Palm Springs Sunday evening:

“Seattle strongly condemns this attack and the discrimination and intolerance that led to it. We have made significant progress as a society in so many ways, celebrating our diversity and committing to inclusion and acceptance.

“In our city and in Washington state, we adopted civil rights protections for the LGBT community. Across the nation, now we all enjoy the right to marry the person we love.

“But we have more work to do to change the hearts of those filled with hate. All of us have the responsibility to represent our commitment to equality in our words and in our actions. And we all must speak out against these crimes wherever they occur.

“Michael and I are close friends of George. As chair of the King County Democrats two decades ago and today as a leader in Equality California, George is a powerful voice for change and fairness. George and Chris will be in our thoughts and prayers during these long weeks ahead as they recover from this senseless act.”

Murray, Constantine, City Council declare emergency, announce new investments to respond to homelessness

homelessnessMayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine have declared emergencies, and joined by Seattle City Councilmembers Mike O’Brien, Sally Bagshaw and John Okamoto, outlined new investments to respond to the growing crisis of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Seattle and King County.

This morning, Mayor Murray signed a Proclamation of Civil Emergency and Executive Constantine signed a Local Proclamation of Emergency in response to the growing crisis.

“Seattle is facing an emergency as a result of the growing crisis in homelessness,” said Mayor Murray. “The City is prepared to do more as the number of people in crisis continues to rise, but our federal and state partners must also do more. Cities cannot do this alone. Addressing homelessness must be a national priority with a federal response.”

Murray and Seattle City Councilmembers today outlined a $5.3 million package to respond to the growing demand for services. For more information, see details of the new City investments and Frequently Asked Questions.

“Emergency declarations are associated with natural disasters, but the persistent and growing phenomenon of homelessness – here and nationwide – is a human-made crisis just as devastating to thousands as a flood or fire,” said Executive Constantine. “We call on the federal and state governments to take action, including shouldering more responsibility for affordable housing, mental health treatment, and addiction services.”

Executive Constantine has proposed $2 million in investments, some of which are already pending before the King County Council, to address immediate human needs and the root causes of homelessness.

Last winter’s One Night Count found 3,772 men, women, and children without shelter in King County, including more than 2,800 in Seattle – a 21 percent increase over 2014. In 2015, 66 homeless people have died in King County, including 47 on the streets and in unpermitted encampments in Seattle. The state now reports that 35,000 people in King County become newly homeless at some point during the year.

The City of Seattle already invests more than $40 million annually to assist people at-risk of or experiencing homelessness, including single adults, youth, families, domestic violence survivors, older adults, and veterans. King County invests $36 million a year to assist individuals and families at-risk of or experiencing homelessness.

Murray cited a decline in federal housing support and slim state budgets for mental health and substance abuse treatments as factors that have increased the burden on local governments. A decade ago, City resources represented less than 40 percent of the total funding for homelessness services. The City is now responsible for over 60 percent of homelessness investments.

Council President Burgess said he would move the legislation necessary to authorize the new resources through the Council quickly. “This is an example of the Mayor and Council working together toward effective solutions,” said Burgess. “We will continue to invest wisely on behalf of our neighbors in need.”

“We are stepping up today to fight the growing crisis of homelessness in our city and throughout the region,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “This package the City is introducing today will help us meet the immediate needs of many on our streets with additional outreach, services, and shelter. We are doing everything we can locally, but we need the support of our state and federal governments to fully address the emergency we are experiencing.”

“Emergency shelter is an immediate necessity, but these new investments in prevention are aimed at reducing the long-term problem of homelessness,” said Councilmember John Okamoto. “With additional flexible resources for those on the verge of homelessness and assistance for those ready to return to permanent housing, we can lift more families out of crisis.”

Seattle funds over 1,600 shelter beds that serve 13,000 individuals a year. Half of those who are served in shelters do not re-experience homelessness in Seattle. But with shelters at 90 percent occupancy, today the City announced a commitment for another 100 beds.

“Seattle, King County, and our suburban neighbors are responding to the growing crisis of homelessness together,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. “When governments, human services providers, and faith institutions collaborate, we will add more housing and create more healthy places for people to sleep and be safe. When each person and family gets the housing and services they need, we will respectfully help them move up and on with their lives.”

There are 32,000 homeless children in Washington state, with nearly 3,000 homeless children currently attending Seattle Public Schools. On average, that’s more than 1 student per Seattle classroom. Bailey Gatzert Elementary, a school of 350 students, served 71 homeless students last school year.

“Families who are homeless deal with many complex obstacles; finding stable housing is only one of them,” said Greg Imel, principal at Bailey Gatzert. “Like all other families, they want a consistent educational environment for their children to learn and to thrive. We need to do more for our homeless children in the City of Seattle and in Seattle Schools. Homelessness has become an epidemic. And it is our moral imperative to address our children’s basic needs.”

The City is currently analyzing all homelessness investments and expanding data collection to ensure resources are targeted at the most effective strategies. Seattle is also launching a new effort to reduce administrative burden on agencies by allowing non-profit partners to provide a range of services under portfolio contracts, rather than separate contracts for each type of service.

“YWCA works to effect lasting change for women and families in our region through services and advocacy,” said Sue Sherbrooke of the YWCA. “Last year, our agency sheltered 2,200 individuals without homes and provided case management to 5,300 more. Yet more people every day face homelessness than our systems can possibly serve. This crisis will grow as our region grows, unless additional measures are taken at the state and federal level to address it.”

Those interested in joining the effort to respond to the homelessness crisis should visit www.allhomekc.org and review All Home’s strategic plan.