Clock starts ticking for Seattle task force to find revenue for homelessness services

While the Seattle City Council dramatically voted down a proposed tax on big businesses to fund homelessness services (otherwise known as the employee head tax) during last month’s contentious city budget negotiations, they also passed a resolution establishing a task force to study the same tax they had just voted down as well as other potential ways to pay for homelessness services.

He lost a sock

Per the resolution, the task force—which the resolution states will be composed of business owners, labor representatives, homelessness service providers, civic leaders, and experts of subjects such as healthcare, housing, and homelessness—will be selected by the council by December 11th and chaired by two council members and two community members.

After Monday afternoon when the task force is set to be finalized, the group will have until February to deliver recommendations to the council that identify progressive revenue sources as well as specific investments for said revenue that help address Seattle’s homelessness crisis.

In an ultimatum, the resolution states that, if the task force doesn’t deliver recommendations by the imposed deadline, that the council will begin considering imposing an employee head tax by March, 2018. Continue reading

‘Fundamental shift’ in Seattle’s approach to homelessness — Here’s how $34M will be put to use

As the smoke clears from Seattle’s 2018 budget process, officials are able to more clearly spell out where some of the critical elements of the city’s spending will be headed in the coming year. Monday, Mayor Tim Burgess marked his final full day in office before turning over the reins to Jenny Durkan on Tuesday with an announcement detailing $34 million in planned spending for homelessness services in 2018:

Today, Mayor Tim Burgess stood with community partners to announce $34 million in funding awards for homeless services. The Human Services Department (HSD) will fund 30 agencies, who submitted proposals in a competitive process, in 98 high-performing programs to help people move into permanent housing (See Funding Awards Attachment). The awarded agencies propose to move more than twice as many people into permanent housing in 2018 than in the previous year, thereby ending their homelessness. Further, the awards focus on addressing the specific needs of African American/Black and Native American/Alaska Native peoples, who experience homelessness at five times and seven times their representation in the overall population, respectively.

“By moving people from living on the street to permanent homes, we provide them a springboard to better opportunities and a more stable life,” Burgess said. Burgess called the funding plan a “fundamental shift in the city government’s approach to homelessness.”

“We are focused on the only result that ends homelessness: housing. We are holding our providers accountable to that same result,” he said. Continue reading

CHS Pics | ‘Hospitality, comfort and support’ — a community Thanksgiving dinner on Capitol Hill

More than 200 people had dinner at Capitol Hill Community Lunch’s Thanksgiving feast. The record turnout, executive director Don Jensen tells CHS, is good and bad news. Jensen said he is glad Community Lunch can be there to serve but there also appears to be growing need for people struggling to make ends meet in Seattle.

Thursday, the nonprofit filled the hall at Broadway’s All Pilgrims and had a healthy host of volunteers. Many were first-time helpers, Jensen said. Continue reading

Plan would turn Seattle Central property at Broadway and Pine into homeless youth facility, housing

(Image: CHS)

Thanks to the watchful eye of Representative Frank Chopp (D-34), a Seattle Central College building at Broadway and Pine will likely turn into a hub of homeless youth services and, hopefully, a new apartment development replacing one of Broadway’s last surface parking lots.

Last winter, the college put out notice that they were seeking development partners for two Broadway properties. Per the law, public agencies are required to publicize it first to other government agencies. That’s when it came across Chopp’s desk.

“We did a tour of the site a while ago and it clearly is an ideal site for it,” Chopp tells CHS. “If you look at where the homeless youth congregates, it’s in Capitol Hill and the U District.” Continue reading

Seattle sorting out how to pay for expansion of drug diversion program beyond Capitol Hill

Transitioning the emphasis from arrest to treatment and services when it comes to addiction, mental illness, and homelessness is slowly changing policing and the city’s connections to its streets in downtown and parts of Capitol Hill. The hopes to expand Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion to the rest of the East Precinct now hinges on the process underway at City Hall to shape Seattle’s 2018 budget.

Tracy Gillespie, who handles LEAD’s East Precinct referrals, and LEAD’s operations advisor Najja Morris said the program’s biggest hurdle is funding, year after year. The program needs more case managers. Their hope is to expand throughout Seattle by 2019, which Morris said would require around $4 million. Right now, LEAD is lined up for $1 million out of the city budget.

The program has been working in Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct — Capitol Hill, the Central District, and Little Saigon — since last year. But it’s been Capitol Hill centric because the program rolled out to SPD’s bicycle officers, who focus on the Hill, and not patrol officers in cars. Now, LEAD is working toward CD and Saigon expansion.

“It’s been really great to see a different demographic come into the program,” said Gillespie. “They tend to be younger, but a lot of them have aged out of the teen and young adult services, so they’re in between being a young person and being an adult.”

But there is uncertainty about how much funding will be available for the initiative in coming years. Continue reading

Rather than more talk about Seattle’s homeless sweeps, here’s what one looks like

With reporting by Alex Garland

Wednesday morning under I-90 at Rainier Avenue S, an outreach team and the Seattle Police Department performed a homeless sweep. People were living in sleeping bags, hammocks and using cardboard boxes. There were large piles of trash. Approximately two truck beds were seen overflowing, but much of the mass was made up of large slats and pallets.

SPD said the homeless individuals were given notice and signs were posted around the area of the looming sweep. Some, according to police, had subsequently already left the area by morning.

Those who remained were put in contact with outreach, but some refused services. One such person was a woman who said she didn’t want a shelter because of “bedbugs and bitches” or “not nice people.” Health concerns like bed bugs and communicable diseases are frequently cited for reasons some avoid shelters. Others tend to say their stuff will get stolen in shelters, and/or they’ll get paired with bad influences or predators.

SPD officer Brad DeVore was on the scene.

“We know there are issues with the process,” DeVore said. Continue reading

Plymouth at First Hill, one point of progress in Seattle’s homelessness emergency

Plymouth Housing Group built the Cal Anderson House — supportive housing for the Lifelong AIDS Alliance — 17 years ago. Now, they’re opening a new building on First Hill, moving in mostly homeless people with disabilities. Because of the mountains of paperwork, moving people in is a slow and rough process that will be finished by the end of December.

Walking up to the building on Cherry Street, the familiar landscape-painted poles under I-5 accompany people sitting out in the cold on mattresses, in boxes and in tents. Plymouth’s own building attempts to bring a piece of that familiarity inside with its own landscape-painted pole in its lobby.

The security-enforced front desk, operated 24/7, lies adjacent. Largely because of its hours, the building has 10 people on staff. Those working the front desk try to keep tabs on their residents so they know everything is alright while not being too intrusive. It’s a tough balance. UPDATE: CHS reported on the staff total for the project. There are 170 total employees across all Plymouth properties. Sorry for the error.

“A lot of the people who moved in to Plymouth Housing units have not been treated well in the system and bureaucracy,” said chief program officer Kelli Larsen. Continue reading

Year two of Seattle’s homelessness state of emergency marked by City Hall sleep-in, debate over ‘sweeps’

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

Two years ago, Seattle declared a state of emergency for homelessness and plans to boost spending to address the issue by a few million dollars. To mark this declaration and stop homeless sweeps, activists slept overnight in Seattle City Hall and on the plaza after they gave over 100 testimonies against so-called “sweeps” before peacefully wrapping up their camps Thursday morning.

“As many times as I’ve stood up here since June, I’ve stood at homeless camps with friends,” Travis Thompson said, addressing a Seattle City Council budget hearing Wednesday night as the sleep-in got underway. He described what happens when police come in to remove the homeless. “What little stability you have is ruined and we put them closer to death by doing that … This needs to happen right now, people are dying!”

At Wednesday night’s budget hearing, both Stop The Sweeps and pro-sweeps group Speak Out Seattle offered ample testimony while people filled the overflow room and rallied outside. As it got dark, others downstairs played in a makeshift band with its own tap dancer. Some said it reminded them of the Occupy movement. People slept in tents, gathered supplies, and huddled around a few heating lamps. Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s Lowell Elementary not to blame for disproportionate homeless student population

(Image: Lowell Elementary PALS PTA)

“How do you deal with these children coming in with such highly traumatic home lives?”

20%. The problems behind Lowell Elementary’s disproportionate enrollment of homeless students are larger than just one school. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction shows 3,498 students as homeless in the district.

“That is not an SPS problem, that is a foundational problem,” Seattle Public Schools (SPS) spokesperson Kim Schmanke said. “A lot of the things we’re doing would be supportive of homeless students but are not solely targeted because we are not a social or counseling center for students.”

The district’s resources are stretched too thin.

Take it from Nick Hodges, the co-president of the Parent-Teacher Association at Lowell Elementary who just recently recovered from homelessness along with his wife and two kids who attend Lowell.

“The biggest problem has always been the structure of getting help in our school,” Hodges said. “How do you deal with these children coming in with such highly traumatic home lives? How can you bring them into a situation that’s going to be stable for them six to seven hours in a day, and make them feel comfortable and safe with the proper resources and send them back to a shelter secure and feeling better about themselves?” Continue reading

Capitol Hill Chamber puts out ‘call to action’ against Seattle homelessness tax

Restless Rest

The Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce is joining its downtown cousin the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce in a “call to action” against a proposed revival of a Seattle business “head tax” to help pay for homelessness services in the city.

“They are expected to raise about $25 million a year for this proposal and put it towards homeless programs that only take us backwards,” the announcement from the Capitol Hill pro-business nonprofit reads. Continue reading