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Seattle will spend $2M through end of 2020 on team to provide homelessness outreach services — without police

(Image: CHS)

The Seattle City Council Monday voted 7 to 1 to spend more than $2 million through the end of 2020 on a homelessness outreach effort to replace the scuttled Navigation Team program.

The spending will fund an eight person team providing behavioral health services, case management, and assistance to help campers and those living outside find shelter — housing navigation services. But it won’t include police.

“There were folks in public comment who were stating their frustration about the city, having been bogged down and really important disagreements about the future direction of what our homelessness response is going to look like,” Andrew Lewis, chair of the council’s committee on homelessness and the bill’s sponsor said about the vote. “And this is the first step to all of us realizing our common interest in this and moving forward in a way that can hopefully finally bridge the divide and get people to the really critical resources that they need and that this council has appropriated money to address.”


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District 3 rep Kshama Sawant was the lone vote against the bill.

As part of its effort to cut back spending on the Seattle Police Department in favor of increased funding for social and community programs, the council in September stripped funding for the Navigation Team that had been charged with helping to conduct outreach to those living homeless and managing sweeps.

Mayor Jenny Durkan, who tried to veto the cuts and fought to keep the Nav Team, called Monday’s vote a “first step” in solving issues around outreach and encampments. “This summer, the City Council and I had significant disagreements about how to address unmanaged encampments after their vote to defund the Navigation Team,” Durkan said in a statement. “Despite our disagreements, inaction is not an option for individuals experiencing homelessness and surrounding neighbors and businesses. This proposal is a first step to creating a more coordinated citywide response including city employees, but I hope City Council urgently and quickly acts to add the new shelter resources that I’ve proposed.”

Monday’s vote comes as a group of business and community organizations from across the city including the Downtown Seattle Association demanded the creation of an “interagency team” and “an immediate action plan” to address disrepair and encampments in the parks.

CHS reported here on a community call for action to begin outreach to the growing number of campers in Cal Anderson Park as parks officials continue to maintain a “temporary closure” of the space to the public. City officials have said their hands were tied until a solution is put in place to replace the Navigation Team. “Early on in the pandemic, the City of Seattle put a hold on encampment removals ​except in instances of extreme public health and public safety concerns in response to CDC guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” a city spokesperson told CHS earlier this month. “The recent vote to eliminate the Navigation Team currently leaves the City without any tools to address encampments that pose health and safety risks.”

That issue was apparently given a $2 million patch with the latest vote on Monday.

With a little more than two months left in 2020, the larger discussion around replacing the Navigation Team will be centered on 2021’s budget as the city council continues to pound away at reshaping Durkan’s proposals for the coming year amid expectations of continued revenue issues stemming from the COVID-19 crisis. Tuesday night will bring another opportunity to speak up about the spending plan before November’s vote on the final package:

Select Budget Committee

Tuesday, October 27, 2020 — 5:30 PM

Public Hearing

Register online to speak during the Public Hearing at the 5:30
p.m. Select Budget Committee meeting at
http://www.seattle.gov/council/committees/public-comment.
Online registration to speak at the Select Budget Committee
meeting will begin two hours before the 5:30 p.m. meeting start time, and registration will end at the conclusion of the Public
Hearing during the meeting. Speakers must be registered in order to be recognized by the Chair.
Submit written comments to Councilmembers at
Council@seattle.gov
Sign-up to provide Public Comment at the meeting at
http://www.seattle.gov/council/committees/public-comment
Watch live streaming video of the meeting at
http://www.seattle.gov/council/watch-council-live
Listen to the meeting by calling the Council Chamber Listen Line
at 253-215-8782 Meeting ID: 586 416 9164
One Tap Mobile No. US: +12532158782,,5864169164#


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JustDoingMath
JustDoingMath
28 days ago

Just doing math here…8 people thru end of 2020 costs $2mm?

Zach
Zach
27 days ago
Reply to  JustDoingMath

Then ask this at the public hearing. The article can’t break out every budget element. Just from the summary, I think the budget’s “assistance” element may include housing vouchers or other things that cost money as separate from actual salaries. There may also be an option to carry over unspent funds to 2021. Again, just ask as that’s what public meetings are for. Referring to “The spending will fund an eight person team providing behavioral health services, case management, and assistance to help campers and those living outside find shelter — housing navigation services. “

CityOfVagrants
CityOfVagrants
27 days ago
Reply to  JustDoingMath

Most of the 2 million goes to non profits who have spent the last decade pissing away our tax dollars.

James
James
27 days ago
Reply to  CityOfVagrants

What’s your suggestion to help the homeless little wise one?

Oh you only complain all day on this blog, nvm.

Steve
Steve
27 days ago
Reply to  CityOfVagrants

I don’t think CityOfVagrants needs to offer a solution. But has the right, like me, as someone who pays taxes here, to comment how year after year the people we elect to solve the problems do NOTHING differently except spend more and more of our money on an issue that keeps getting worse and worse. It’s like the old riddle – what gets bigger the more you take out of it? A hole.

CityOfVagrants
CityOfVagrants
27 days ago
Reply to  CityOfVagrants

Get some big fema tents, put them somewhere cheap. Everyone has the option of free shelter there. Then just enforce the laws we already have.

JenMoon
JenMoon
25 days ago
Reply to  CityOfVagrants

They’ve met their 60% goal of getting the unhoused into shelter when it’s available which is more than I can say for the paltry 6% rate of the Navigation Team…

SomeMoreMath
SomeMoreMath
27 days ago

Fully burdened employees (wages, benefits, etc) plus operating expenses (vehicles, electronics, communications, supplies, equipment) – sounds in the ballpark to me,

Since you’re just doing math, what would you expect it to cost?

Salty
Salty
27 days ago
Reply to  SomeMoreMath

I can’t figure more than around $400k for the first month with salary, computers, cars etc. It must be something like financial assistance that makes up the rest.

RWK
RWK
27 days ago

This new team will have their work cut out for them, because there are so many more encampments inundating our parks and streets. And this is at a time when shelter space is limited due to covid-19 restrictions. In the past, most homeless people refused offers for shelter, even when it was more available, and no doubt this will be true going forward. So, the bottom line is that this team will have little impact on the numbers of tents that are now so prevalent.

Sawant was the sole vote against this funding. I guess she is against any attempts to help the homeless.

Jim98122x
Jim98122x
26 days ago
Reply to  RWK

Nah, probably just the funding source. She probably wanted Amazon to pay for it all.

HTS3
HTS3
27 days ago

I understand the problems that can result from police involvement in the homeless camps. I also know the danger to the workers when they go into these situations not knowing what they will encounter. I hope none of the workers are injured or worse doing this job. There is a reason that the police are asked to go into situations first. My two cents.

JenMoon
JenMoon
25 days ago
Reply to  HTS3

There are groups of us covering the North End, SODO, Capitol Hill, and more, and we are fine without cops. Cops often make the situation worse because of the fear surrounding a situation. I’m not saying every situation is perfect but the danger that folks think they will encounter vs the actual danger are worlds apart most of the time.

Brad B
Brad B
27 days ago

I’ve completely given up on the parks near downtown (and near Ballard/Lake City/etc). It’s worth it to take a little bit of extra time to walk somewhere that is enjoyable.

Tom
Tom
27 days ago

Then she has found a common ground with the Republicans here.

Real
Real
27 days ago

I really question the whole narrative that homeless are camped out solely by choice even though there was a nice video put out a while ago about all seattle has done and their promise that anyone seeking shelter can find it during covid. Its simply a lie. Go down to city hall when u have the time around 7-8 and see what happens. Watch the people from pervious night file in, then watch what happens to the ‘overflow’ line (first come first serve basis if not there the previous night). Last time I was over there 2 people in overflow got in and about 10-12 were turned away. When I asked them where someone could realistically go they said unfortunately drunk tank is your sole option if u want to be indoors. Emergency shelter system is overloaded and underfunded it seems.

Mike
Mike
27 days ago
Reply to  Real

Nobody seems to know. Why do we have to guess? Where is any sort of reliable data / information showing what the city is trying to solve for?

Mike
Mike
27 days ago

I understand why we need to form a taskforce to help those in need find the care they need, and such taskforce should be staffed with properly trained individuals.

I don’t understand, however, why the city is ok with breaking the municipal city code, and why police is not involved in enforcing it; if not police, who is responsible for enforcing these laws:
18.12.250 – Camping – It is unlawful to camp in any park except at places set aside and posted for such purposes by the Superintendent
18.12.255 – Liquor – It is unlawful in a park to consume, or to possess an open container…
18.12.260 – Littering – It is unlawful to throw or deposit any refuse or other material in any park, except in designated receptacle
18.12.270 – Fires – It is unlawful (a) to ignite or maintain any fire or to participate in igniting, maintaining or using any fire within any park except in a designated stove or fire ring, or in a beach area

Chairman Ben
26 days ago
Reply to  Mike

Councilwoman Lisa Herbold last Wednesday made a proposal to allow for the dismissal of crimes of poverty and it would do so by revising the definition of duress as a defense against prosecution.

“The offenses that would be covered by the Seattle ordinance would include just about any crime below the level of a felony while excluding charges of driving under the influence or domestic violence.”

As reported on Komo see website page.

JenMoon
JenMoon
25 days ago
Reply to  Mike

Where should they go instead? If they don’t camp in the parks (and we used to be at about 11,500 counting shelters; we are over 13k now due to Covid), where should they go? Shelters are not only full, they are social distancing so not taking as many folks as usual. Durkan vetoed building 300 more Tiny Houses so that isn’t happening.

The garbage cans and dumpsters have been removed and when they are brought back, someone removes them again. We take garbage bags out because most folks don’t actually want to litter.

As far as fire, it was freezing a couple nights ago. If you would like to take a couple of these 20 year olds in so they don’t freeze, I would love that. In the meantime, they have tiny propane indoor stoves. :(

The booze and unapproved fires, i’m not so happy with that either but i have no answers.