Broadway businesses are banding together to keep what they say is a vital service –Outreach workers on the streets of Capitol Hill talking with people suffering a mental health crisis or struggling with homelessness — in place as City Hall funding for the program comes to an end.
But as it finds a new way to pay for the service, the Broadway group may also need to find a new organization to provide the outreach workers.
For the past two years, the Broadway Business Improvement Area has contracted with downtown’s Metropolitan Improvement District to staff a crew of outreach workers who can help handle the day to day crises of homelessness, mental health, and addiction that arise along Broadway. The money to expand the effort from downtown to Capitol Hill came from then-Mayor Ed Murray’s office after some creative budgeting moved existing funding into place to support the outreach workers. The effort followed promises made in the wake of a shooting at Broadway and Pike to bring more services to Pike/Pine to help free up East Precinct officers who found themselves on the front lines of Seattle’s homelessness crisis.
But, by the end of March, the Broadway BIA will now be footing the bill to support the outreach through the end of 2018. 2019? Part of that will likely be decided by how the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce’s campaign to expand the BIA across the entire Hill is working out.
First, however, the BIA must find a way to staff the outreach. “Due to several factors” a representative for the organization said the Metropolitan Improvement District will no longer be able to provide staff for the Capitol Hill area. The search for a new solution is underway.
At its start, the MID program had two outreach workers assigned to Capitol Hill and a third drug abuse and mental health counselor on the way. CHS accompanied the team “on patrol” in the winter of 2016:
The morning’s first contact came around 9 AM in Cal Anderson Park when a 29-year-old named Jayson approached the two homeless outreach workers and a Seattle police officer. Jayson quickly opened up, talking about how he had been living on the streets for a decade while struggling with drugs, alcohol, and mental health issues. He said he was released from the hospital the night before, but could not say why he was admitted.
“If you see someone in non-emergency distress, the Capitol Hill Metropolitan Improvement District Outreach (MID) team operates from 8:30 AM-5:00 PM,” the Broadway BIA promises its member merchants.
Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office has not responded to CHS’s questions about the end of funding for the Capitol Hill component of the outreach and officials from the Broadway BIA said they were not sure why the two years of support had come to an end.
“Our job was to make sure that we take care of our ratepayers and keep the service going for them at this time,” Stacey Krynsky of 1st Security Bank and the Broadway BIA board said. “We have budgeted it through the end of this year, and will keep in close contact to see if this will be approved for following years.”
Earlier this month, the BIA announced the “bridge” funding for the outreach workers and a boost in budget for the summer’s Pride street festival on Broadway as it brought in a new director to manage the organization that is being lined up for a major expansion across the entirety of Capitol Hill.
At the launch of the expansion campaign a year ago, officials said they already had support from about 30% of the property owners to be impacted by the assessments which could run between $2,000 and $5,000 per year for most of the 850 or so properties involved. 60% of all potential members in the existing and newly proposed area must vote to approve any agreement to create new borders under the city’s Office of Economic Development program. Then each BIA agreement must be approved by the Seattle City Council.
If the Capitol Hill expansion effort is going to move forward this year, the 60% package of property owners needs to be wrapped up by mid-summer to be in place in time for the legislative and city budget process required.
The chamber has administered the existing Broadway BIA for 30 years. The assessments for the BIA bring in around $200,000 which provides services such as cleaning and beautification. The expanded organization — planned to be called the Capitol Hill Alliance and replace the existing BIA and the chamber — could bring in an estimated $1.6 million based on property assessments. Roughly 70% of those funds would go toward street cleaning, hot spot patrols, and district-wide social worker outreach.
Danielle Hulton, owner of 15th Ave E’s Ada’s Technical Bookstore, a Capitol Hill property owner, and a chamber board member, supports the expansion.
“This will be an incredible return on investment,” Hulton said. “We can pivot and shift to new problems as they come up.”
Starting APRIL 1, HOMELESS OUTREACH WILL TEMPORARILY BE DISCONTINUED ON CAPITOL HILL. Through the city, funding has been shifting to groups serving specific populations. We at the BBIA have committed funds to extending outreach efforts but recently learned the MID would not be able to take on those responsibilities as we had thought. We are working with other community groups and the city to make sure this is a temporary blip and that this outreach continues to serve the community in 2018. Stay tuned for more information on that.
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