Today, Mayor Ed Murray announced a plan to better address the immediate needs of people living unsheltered on Seattle streets while the City fully implements its long-term plan, Pathways Home. This plan includes creating additional low-barrier shelter capacity (including shower facilities), expanded outreach, updated unsheltered encampment cleanup protocols, as well as improved trash and needle pick up. The plan, made up of actions the Mayor can take under his Executive authority, was sent to Council in a letter Friday.
“Pathways Home remains our long-term plan to transform the way the City invests in programs to address homelessness,” said Mayor Murray. “Today’s announcement, however, recognizes our need to bridge the gap as we still have over 3,000 people living unsheltered on our streets. We need to ensure we are providing safer alternatives for those living on our streets, increasing our outreach efforts, focusing on a more compassionate set of protocols when clean cleanups are necessary and offering trash and needle pickup services to address public health and safety issues.
“This plan is not in contradiction to Pathways Home and it reflects the principles laid out by the Task Force on Unsheltered Encampment Cleanup Protocols.”
This plan recognizes that the City should not displace encampments that do not pose an imminent health or safety risk or do not unlawfully obstruct a public use unless the City is able to offer those living there a safer alternative place to live.
The plan is focused on four areas, laid out in the document sent to Council today:
- Safer alternative spaces to live, including four new authorized encampments, a call out to the private and non-profit sectors, and communities of faith for additional proposals for immediate shelter space, and the Seattle Navigation Center, which will open by January, 2017.
- Expanded outreach with the tripling of the number of outreach workers dedicated to connecting with people living in encampments, a dedicated Seattle Police team to partner with outreach workers and address behavioral disorder issues instead of the binary decisions around arrests, and training for frontline City employees on how to best offer referrals for people experiencing homelessness.
- More compassionate protocols for unauthorized encampments, including the above note about displacement, better protocols around storage and delivery of personal belongings and notice, and transparency around when and why cleanups are carried out.
- Improved trash and needle pickup with Seattle Public Utilities to help address areas most affected by trash buildup and make needle deposit boxes more accessible.
Full details can be found here, including information about the budget.