Seattle City Council Insight: City reports on performance of homeless response programs in first half of 2019

From SCC Insight

This week, HSD Interim Director Jason Johnson delivered a report to the City Council on the performance of the city’s homeless-response programs through the first half of 2019. There was some good news.

Johnson began by reminding the Council that the goal of the city’s homelessness response is to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring. To that end, he explained how the department’s programs successfully served more people in the first half of 2019:

  • HSD-funded programs prevented 461 households, representing 704 individuals, from becoming homeless, an increase of 20% over the same period in 2018.
  • 1,936 households, representing 3,042 individuals, moved from homelessness to housing, a 6% increase from the year before.
  • 2,127 unique households that have experienced chronic homelessness — often the most challenging people to help out of homelessness — remained stably housed in Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), a program which pairs housing with wrap-around case management and services. According to Johnson, the city’s PSH programs have a 90% success rate in keeping people housed.

Johnson credited this to having fully ramped-up programs in place; you may recall, HSD ran an RFP in 2017 to re-bid its homeless-response contracts, and in the first half of 2018 those awardees launched programs under the new contracts. 2019 is the first time that the new awardees started the year at full capacity, so in retrospect it’s no surprise that they are performing better — but still great to see. In addition, the “rate of exit” to permanent housing from many of HSD’s programs improved over the previous year, suggesting that they are getting incrementally better at what they do. Continue reading

Firings, an employee walkout, and a row over homelessness at Capitol Hill’s Caffe Vita — UPDATE

(Image: Caffe Vita)

Two employees were fired — and another five reportedly quit in solidarity — after a disagreement over how homeless people should be treated at Caffe Vita’s flagship E Pike shop.

Liz McConnell confirmed the firings and walkout with CHS as social media efforts have spread calling out the Capitol Hill-headquartered coffee chain for firing a trans employee and criticizing a Vita manager’s message about homeless people receiving free coffee or food at its cafes.

McConnell, citing legal concerns, said she could not confirm details of the firings other than they were “with cause” and involved both a manager and en employee. She also confirmed that a Vita manager had sent the message about the free handouts being shared on social media. Continue reading

19th Ave homeless youth facility PSKS to close as Seattle City Hall pushes away from shelter funding

(Image: PSKS)

Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets, the mouthful of a name, year-round, overnight youth shelter on 19th Ave just off Madison must close before the end of the year.

“The Board of Directors of Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets (PSKS) has spent the past two years investigating the best possible future for our programs serving youth and young adults experiencing homelessness,” the PSKS announcement reads. “After in-depth conversations with partner service providers, the City of Seattle, and private funders, we have come to the very difficult decision that PSKS must close its doors no later than December 31.”

The Seattle Times was first to report the decision in an in-depth look at what the loss will mean for young homeless people who depend on the shelter’s 25 beds in a city cutting back on emergency shelter spending in favor of “enhanced shelters” and what city officials say will be longer term housing solutions.

“I would consider PSKS to be the canary in the coal mine,” PSKS board member and former board president Andrea Vitalich tells the Times. “Because the entire service-providing model is not sustainable.”

The decision to close the shelter comes three years after CHS reported the sale of the property by longtime owners Mount Zion Baptist Church and the few years remaining on its lease. Continue reading

Durkan’s 2020 budget proposal tips $6.5B with big boost from the Megablock and smaller items like Convention Center cash for Lambert House

(Image: City of Seattle)

There were small bits of good news for Capitol Hill and the Central District sprinkled into larger chunks of progress in Mayor Jenny Durkan’s $6.5 billion 2020 Seattle budget proposal unveiled Monday.

“We must do more to lift each other up. We must build more housing, especially housing near transit, so that the nurse assistants, restaurant workers, and the teachers right in this building can live in the city they make great,” Durkan said in her speech on the 2020 proposal given Monday morning at Franklin High School.

Some of the big gains — and small, too — in the proposal come from “one-time” revenue infusions. “For example, the sale of the Mercer Megablock properties and payments to the City associated with the expansion of the Washington State Convention Center have provided significant resources for both housing and transportation investments,” the budget proposal’s executive summary reads.

A good example easily lost in the $6.5 billion worth of line items is $500,000 earmarked for Capitol Hill’s Lambert House. CHS reported last year on the queer youth nonprofit’s efforts to purchase the 15th Ave house it calls home. The 2020 budget will put proceeds from street vacations associated with expansion of the Washington State Convention Center to boost the effort: Continue reading

Seattle City Council Insight: Sawant looks to expand sanctioned encampments and tiny house villages, but faces SEPA appeal

A summer “Tent City” at St. Joseph’s in 2016

From SCC Insight

While her call for rent control is featured on her campaign posters, Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant is pursuing another, smaller solution for housing and affordability for Seattle’s most vulnerable — a bill that would expand the city’s ability to establish additional “tiny house” villages and issue permits for more sanctioned homeless encampments.

Her bill has already been tied up in land-use bureaucracy.

Sawant’s bill adjusts the regulations for permitting encampments, of both the tent- and “tiny home” based varieties. It relaxes the rules for where in the city they could be set up, and increases the maximum permitted number of encampments to 40. But since it is a land-use ordinance, it is subject to State Environmental Policy Act review, meaning that the city needs to fill out the SEPA checklist and either make a Determination of Non-significance (DNS), or write a full-blown SEPA Environmental Impact Statement if there are significant expected impacts.

The appeals have become a popular tool for opposing new development and zoning changes in Seattle and cost filers less than a hundred dollars to begin the process.

At the beginning of August, the Council’s Central Staff issued a DNS for the proposed legislation. And Elizabeth Campbell, who is well-known for her legal challenges to the Council’s land-use actions, once again filed an appeal of the DNS with the Hearing Examiner — according to Sawant, thirteen minutes before the filing deadline. That prevents the Council from moving forward with Sawant’s bill until the Hearing Examiner rules on Campbell’s appeal.

Here’s what Sawant’s proposed bill does: Continue reading

Officials hope for solutions beyond Seattle from King County Regional Homelessness Authority

It has been a caveat on nearly every major Seattle effort to combat homelessness. The problem, many contend, is regional. Wednesday, the City of Seattle and King County rolled out the plan to try to address the crisis at a higher level.

County Executive Dow Constantine and Mayor Jenny Durkan announced legislation Wednesday that will create a new regional authority overseeing “a unified response to homelessness.” Continue reading

HEAR & NOW: AN EVENING WITH TRIMPIN & PATH WITH ART

Community Perceptions of Homelessness

Join internationally renowned artist and sculptor Trimpin and PATH WITH ART artists for an evening of poetry, visual art, and music. Together, they explore their collaborative work Hear & Now, currently on display at the Goethe Pop Up Space in Capitol Hill. This sound sculpture — mobile, tumultuous, kinetic – speaks to the immediacy of the homelessness crisis in Seattle. Those experiencing homelessness often report feeling unseen, unheard. The sculpture screams to be seen and heard, pulls focus, demands your attention. The artists creatively convey the experience of living without a place to call home, with the intention of building empathy across social and cultural boundaries. Hear & Now is thus a metaphor for being in constant transition and attempts to translate the chaos of living in homelessness.

Attendance is free, but space is limited so we kindly ask everyone to register in advance via Eventbrite.

The event is co-presented with PATH WITH ART.

Has ‘unsheltered homelessness’ really dropped 20% in Seattle in 2019? Probably not

Numbers of “unsheltered homeless” individuals from the county’s annual tally. The full report is below.

The 2019 King County point-in-time count homelessness which reported some dramatic drops in homelessness was met with scrutiny this week in a King County Council briefing.

Throughout the county, the total homeless population decreased by 8% from last year, to 11,199, according to the annual count performed by All Home KC in late January, the data from which should be taken with a grain of salt despite being the most consistent indicator of trends in the region.

According to the 2019 data, the county tally found 17% fewer individuals “experiencing unsheltered homelessness” while Seattle saw an even more dramatic drop of 20% as 3,558 individuals were reported experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the city.

Continue reading

Seattle to expand city team in charge of homeless camp clean-ups

Mayor Jenny Durkan’s strategy to address homelessness issues in Seattle will be increasingly focused on sweeps as the city’s team trained clean out encampments is again set to expand.

In Friday’s announcement, Durkan said Seattle’s Navigation Team will grow by four new hires to 38 employees and begin to respond to clean-up and sweep situations seven days a week.

“This crisis requires urgent action and new steps. We will continue to work for holistic solutions and do more to help bring people inside and connect them with services and housing – and we will continue to invest in the strategies we know have an impact, like enhanced shelter and our Navigation Team,” Durkan said in an announcement of the expanded team. Continue reading

Swamped with ‘non-emergency’ 911 calls, Seattle Fire testing new response team for homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health issues — UPDATE: Capitol Hill part of plan

Homelessness and basic human health needs are swamping Seattle’s emergency services. A pilot program for the Seattle Fire Department will create a new team to handle the thousands of 911 calls that need real responses but aren’t emergency medical situations.

“As our city grows, our ability to deliver emergency and non-emergency responses must also grow. We pioneered Medic One, which became the gold standard in emergency health response. Non-emergency cases need a similar response in our growing urban environment,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said Tuesday about Health One, a new, $500,000 program focused on downtown Seattle and “some adjacent residential neighborhoods” set to launch in coming months to create a SFD team focused on responding to substance abuse, non-emergency medical issues, helping people access needed city services.

In 2018, 42% of SFD’s medical calls were deemed “low acuity” calls — calls where the department dispatched its resources that “generally resulted in no action or a non-emergency transport.” Continue reading