The Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness is calling on the Seattle City Council to respond to the urgent unmet needs of homeless people with a new emergency investment of $10 million in shelter and services in the 2016 budget. This figure represents a realistic assessment of how our city can significantly reduce how many people are homeless outside in our city, starting this winter. These are not intended to be comprehensive recommendations – they are serious proposals that will help more people get their fundamental needs met through a strengthened and expanded network of emergency survival services.
More information about how we recommend $10 million be used most effectively is below. YOUR voice is crucial: if you live, work, or spend time in Seattle, Mayor Murray and City Council Members need to hear from you today. Simple instructions for how to Take Action are at the bottom of this post!
We recommend that Council use the current budget process to allocate new resources to:
- Bring 750-1000 people indoors beginning this winter: Increase overnight shelter capacity and expand daytime services that meet people’s needs
- Keep homeless people safer and healthier while they are outside: Take a public health/harm reduction approach to assisting people outside
- Build on and reinforce our existing network of shelters and survival services: Extend hours and enhance staffing and programming where possible; find and fill in gaps between what people need and what is available
Estimated costs and specific opportunities:
I. Open additional overnight shelter for 1000 people: $6.5 million*
- This conservative cost estimate presumes that Seattle will work to maximize capacity at existing programs (offer longer service hours or enhanced services or increased staffing support) and open additional shelters by working with local non-profit organizations, leveraging publicly-held properties, and calling on the private sector to join faith communities in offering space (both buildings and parking lots), financial and in-kind support, and volunteers to keep rental, utilities, and tenant improvement costs low.
- The city has an immediate opportunity to open year-round shelter for 50-100 adults in partnership with King County in the currently vacant King County-owned building at 4th and Jefferson St. $500,000 (See our previous post and letter to King County Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Council here.)
II. Assist people in organized tent camps and those who are living outside by supporting health and hygiene, and providing additional daytime services
- Basic operating support for organized tent cities: $250,000 – $500,000. These funds would support healthy and stable operations at existing and new organized camps, including sanitation (trash removal; porta potties; materials and other operating expenses).
- Increased access to basic health and hygiene services for people who are homeless: $250,000 – $500,000. Fund extended hours and days of service at hygiene centers and work to increase access to public restrooms (with or without staffing) through partnerships with public and private entities.
- Daytime safety and flexible support for people without shelter: $750,000. Extend hours and days of service at existing sites and offer new daytime programs so that people can move beyond survival mode, and focus on other activities.
III. Support crucial components of our homeless service system while leveraging maximum federal dollars: $1.75 million
- We recommend that the 2016 budget includes $1.75 million to ensure that we do not lose valuable services that support homeless children, youth, families, and adults, and that we position the community as a whole to secure the most federal funds for homeless housing. Five local programs that currently receive about $3.5 million annually through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), may lose this source of funding in 2016. This is not a reflection of the value of these programs or the services offered, but is the result of federal funding priorities shifting. These programs provide valuable supports ~ other than housing ~ that homeless families and individuals in Seattle need and benefit from, including child care assistance; medical respite; public health services; case management for youth and young adults; and employment assistance for adults.
All nine City Councilmembers need to hear from you TODAY. They are making decisions about what will and will not be part of the budget right now. You can influence what happens for real people who are homeless in our community by using your voice in one (or more) quick ways.
- E-mail: Email all nine Seattle City Councilmembers. Please also let Mayor Murray hear from you: use this form.
- Phone Call: Call the office of any, and multiple, Seattle City Councilmembers.
- Postcard: Write a message, sign, and mail a postcard in an envelope with a 1st class stamp.
Sample message: “I urge you to respond to the growing crisis of homelessness by creating more indoor shelter and services (day and night) immediately. Thousands of people are outside, struggling to survive, while public buildings stand empty or underused. Funding for human services is not enough to meet the needs in our city. Local leaders must respond more strongly. The current state is unacceptable. Please act now to bring more people inside by making an emergency investment of $10 million for survival services.”