Seattle will spend more than $47 million in 2016 to fight homelessness following City Hall votes this week — or, about 1% of its proposed budget for the year.
Last Thursday, Mayor Ed Murray joined in the prayers at First Hill’s Saint James Cathedral for the Mass for the Deceased Homeless “in memory of the men and women who died on the streets or by violence in our community this past year.”
45 people have died on the street in Seattle in 2015, Murray said earlier this month as the mayor declared a homelessness state of emergency in the city. That declaration will allow the city to add $5.3 million in spending to the $40 million called for in the mayor’s $5.1 billion 2016 budget proposal. Monday, the City Council boosted the emergency spend by another $2.3 million thanks to Seattle’s windfall from higher than expected real estate tax revenue. Kshama Sawant, set to lead District 3 in the new year, was unsuccessful in her bid to win support from her fellow Seattle City Council members for an even greater proposal of $10 million to build emergency housing.
The boosts will include nearly $2.7 million in spending on prevention and public health efforts, including Rapid Re-Housing, case management, and five public chemical toilets. With 90% of Seattle shelter beds full on average, the plan proposes $900,000 to create 100 new shelter beds. $1.8 million would be used to expand the Multi-disciplinary Team outreach program, which pairs police officer’s with social outreach workers. MDT will be expanding to Capitol Hill later this year. The plan also calls for a van to offer mental health services. $256,000 will go to a YWCA homeless shelter.
Meanwhile, the scale of the ongoing, $40 million-ballpark proposed spend on homeless services compared to the previous budget is mostly unchanged — but still staggering. It includes $4 million for the Seattle Conservation Corps “to provide training, counseling, and employment to homeless and unemployed people,” $9.8 million for homeless shelters, $1.5 million to increase shelter staffing, $4.3 million to provide homeless intervention and prevention services, $2.8 million for emergency food programs — enough for 525,000 meals, and $300,000 to “reduce the average length of stay for individuals and families in the City’s shelter programs, with the goal of reaching an average stay of 20 days,” $1.7 million for homeless health care services, and $40,000 “to support a capacity building project focused on improving agencies’ work with LGBTQ homeless young people.” More than $200,000 will be used “to lease property, support camp operations and provide case management and service referrals to encampment residents at up to three different locations.”
The City Council is set to vote to approve the final 2016 budget next week.
Central Seattle including Capitol Hill and the Central District has one of the highest concentrations of homeless youth and young adults in King County, a population that is a fifth LGBTQ and a third African American, according to results from King County’s 2015 One Night Count. The study found 3,772 individuals were living outside and unsheltered in King County, a 21% increase from 2014. Seattle Public Schools also says about 3,000 of its students are homeless. At 12th and Yesler’s Bailey Gatzert Elementary, the principal said 71 of the school’s 350 students were homeless last year.