A Roof Over Their Heads: A Better Approach



Nickelsville’s existence and the now very viable possibility of a permanent “McGinnville” encampment demonstrates how far away we are from solving the problem of homelessness in Seattle. It’s wrong that there are thousands of people who are homeless each night, including the nearly 2,500 who are sleeping under bridges, in parks, on buses, in cars, and in garbage dumpsters.  As a city of compassionate people, we can do much better.

To our voters’ credit, we passed the Seattle Housing Levy last year, and we should work with other local cities to replicate the housing levy in the 38 other municipalities in King County. Seattle needs the help of other municipalities in our region if we hope to seriously address homelessness. As a city, we presently spend $40 per household to fight homelessness, while the next highest municipality in King County spends only $4.  I’d like us to work with Dow and representatives from other local cities to do their fair share and to find a regional solution.

The City of Seattle has not funded an emergency shelter system that would provide adequate indoor, 24-hour shelter for high-functioning men and women who are homeless, nor can we afford to do this ourselves.  I know we put a priority on permanent housing through our levy, which is a good thing, but our lack of service for those who need emergency shelter leads to tent cities like Nickelsville as well as homeless encampments in our parks and greenbelts.

Here’s a different approach. We should invest in organizations that already provide shelter, case management and job training for people who are homeless to help them move out of homelessness.  The downtown First United Methodist Church is one such example.  It coordinates with the Compass Center, and every night, sixty men are given safe, clean, respectful places to eat, shower, and sleep.  We must coordinate our resources to provide 24-hour care and space for people in need.

It may be financially challenging at this point but we could make great strides by supporting existing organizations and resources that have demonstrated success.  We must do more for individuals and families in need.  To accomplish this, I would increase our shelter funding by $5 million/year each year for the next four years to build adequate capacity in top quality emergency shelter for people who are homeless.

When people have a roof over their head and coordinated out-reach through case management –using our existing non-profit and religious organizations — we can reach more people than government trying to go it alone.

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