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Small Business Survey; Results of Homeless Services; West Seattle Light Rail; SPU/SCL Call Center; Office Hours; Police Chief Confirmation


Seattle Small Business Survey

In continuing its efforts to support Seattle small businesses the Office of Economic Development has designed a survey to ask small business owners across the city what the City can do to better support the success of Seattle small businesses.  This information will help OED to prioritize their programs and services, as well as to inform pilot projects, such as the Legacy Business Program.

The survey closes in a few days so if you would like to participate make sure you respond by Sunday July 15th.  Apologies for the short turnaround, my office just learned of this survey this week.

Survey link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/OEDsmallbusiness

 


City-Funded Homeless Services: First Quarter 2018 Results

On Tuesday June 26th the Human Services, Equitable Development and Renter Rights committee heard a summary of the Human Services Department (HSD) report on the 2018 Homelessness Services Investments.  This data reflects information provided to HSD by providers both through the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) as well as through their regular reporting requirements found in their service contracts and invoices.

In the first quarter of 2018, 3,030 households exited to housing (or maintained their permanent supportive housing) from the homeless services system.  This is an increase of 1,241 households when compared to the same timeframe during first quarter last year.  A total of 221 households were diverted from the homelessness emergency services system through the City’s homelessness prevention efforts.

Whenever possible, our homelessness services system tries to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.  The City of Seattle made an additional investment of over $3 million in our prevention services for 2018.  This was one area where rates of people maintaining housing was lower than it was for the same timeframe last year.  In their presentation, HSD shared that they anticipate these outcomes will improve in quarter two for two reasons.  First, $1.3 million of the new investments have been in 3 new programs.  These new programs have spent much of quarter one establishing and ramping up their services.  Additionally, prevention programs must keep client records open for 90 days. As such, outcomes for some program participants may not be available until the next quarter.  I will continue to monitor the quarter two prevention outcomes to track any changes.

The City of Seattle’s homelessness investments are broken into five categories; Emergency Shelter and Services, Housing, Prevention, and Access to Services and Operations.  When homelessness prevention is not possible there are two different options available.  The first is using diversion funds to move people directly into housing.  When this is not possible, people are directed into the emergency service system.

The City currently invests in two kinds of shelter; basic shelter and enhanced shelter.  In addition to providing low-barrier shelter, enhanced shelter provides services such as extended hours, increased flexibility, hygiene services, storage, meals and case management services.  Sixty-seven percent of the total shelter beds funded by the City in 2018 provide enhanced services, this is an increase of 23% over the same timeframe in 2017.  According to HSD, enhanced shelter moves people into permanent housing six times more quickly than basic shelter.  In the first quarter of 2018 2,800 households received enhanced shelter services.  Of those 2,800 households, 1457 exited enhanced shelter (to anywhere) and 299 households exited to permanent housing.  Another part of the emergency homelessness service system is transitional housing in which the City invests specifically to support youth and young adults. In the first quarter of 2018, City funded providers provided transitional housing to 672 households.  Of those households 175 exited (to anywhere) and 103 exited to permanent housing.

Diversion services offer one-time financial assistance or services to bypass shelters and move people facing homelessness directly into housing. The City invested an additional $1 million in diversion programs in 2018, doubling its investment to a total of $2 million.  The exit rate to permanent housing for diversion programs increased by 19% in 2018 (as compared to the same time last year) to a rate of 80.5%. Diversion can help people reunite with family, mediate with a landlord, or pay rent for a short time.

Rapid Rehousing assists individuals to quickly exit the homeless services system and move to permanent housing   The City measures the success of Rapid Rehousing when people live in their own housing without the on-going subsidy associated with Rapid Rehousing.  In quarter one of 2018 there was a slight increase in the number of households served from 605 in Q1 of 2017 to 629 in Q1 of 2018 and a 10% increase in the rate of exits to permanent housing, totaling 83%, in Q1 of 2018 as compared to Q1 of 2017.

Finally, Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) is considered successful when people remain housed in a PSH unit or move to other permanent housing.  In the first quarter of 2018 there have been 1850 households who have maintained their housing in PSH with a 99% rate of “exits to” (which are better defined as maintenance of) permanent housing.  This represents continued success of this intervention especially for people who are experiencing chronic homelessness. The success of this program is also why the spending plan for the repealed Employee Hours Tax dedicated most of the anticipated revenue to PSH.

There have been many questions about how the City is accountable for its homelessness investments. Last year I proposed, and the Council passed the HSD Results Based-Accountability bill.  This ordinance was crafted with community providers, HSD, community-based researchers and Councilmembers relating to how the Human Services Department should utilize a results-based framework (RBA) when designing its human services investments.  Questions have arisen as to how HSD’s “exits to permanent housing” outcome is measured when it comes to prevention and diversion programs, programs that, by definition, are helping to KEEP people in housing.   Permanent housing, according to HUD, is defined as community-based housing without a designated length of stay in which formerly homeless individuals and families live as independently as possible.  The following is the definition used for exits to permanent housing for HUD:

  • Emergency Services and Transitional Housing to permanent housing: An exit from an authorized encampment/ City-permitted village would be considered an exit to permanent housing from an unsheltered location, since HUD does not recognize encampments as emergency services.
  • Prevention:  An exit is maintaining existing housing or being diverted to other permanent housing instead of becoming homeless.
  • Diversion:  An exit is being diverted from homelessness to permanent housing (which in some cases means maintaining existing housing).
  • Rapid Rehousing:  An exit is maintaining existing housing after subsidy ends.
  • Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH):  An exit is remaining in PSH.  This is considered an exit because accepting and maintaining permanent supportive housing is theoretically the only way the target population for PSH, people who need an ongoing level of deeper support, will not be homeless.

As such when HSD uses the term “permanent housing” it may include all of the above definitions.  Whether it is maintaining housing for people at risk of homelessness or moving someone who is homeless into permanent housing, the goal is still the same, to make sure that as many people as possible have a stable, permanent and affordable place to live.

In closing, it’s important to recognize that HSD is making continuous improvements in working with service providers to improve outcomes and ensure that there is accountability for the public’s tax dollars.  Importantly as well, they have improved their transparency in helping to tell the story to the public of how those outcomes and accountability has improved.  The reason this is so important is that it helps to answer the question:  “why do we see an increase in homelessness?”  With data like this, we can demonstrate that our programs are accomplishing the outcomes that we intend but that the need for more services is increasing because even though the available resources have successfully moved people out of homelessness, increasing numbers of people need those services.

 


Update on West Seattle Options and Schedule for Light Rail

In May Sound Transit moved forward with alternatives for light rail to West Seattle, for analysis in Level 2, as part of their three-tiered development of a preferred alternative. The Elected Leadership Group recommended four options proceed, beyond the baseline “Representative Alignment” Sound Transit is using.

Level 2 analysis will include greater detail, including cost estimates. I’ve asked that Sound Transit develop visual renderings to allow for ease of public understanding.

At the most recent Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting on June 20, as part of their ongoing Level 2 evaluation, Sound Transit released modified level 2 alternatives for the West Seattle-Ballard line.  Here’s a link to the West Seattle portion of the line.

Some of the revised alternatives show the Avalon station straddling Fauntleroy, in order to provide easier access to residents to the north of Fauntleroy near the entrance to the West Seattle Bridge. The Oregon Street/Alaska Junction Tunnel alternative has a revised route from the Avalon station westward, no longer going under Fauntleroy to SW Oregon Street. The Golf Course/Alaska Junction Tunnel alternative no longer crosses Delridge Playfield, or the West Seattle Golf Course. A mix-and-match example shows how elements of different options could be combined.

Level 2 evaluation results are scheduled for completion in early September. The Stakeholder Advisory Group will be briefed on September 5th; Sound Transit will then hold neighborhood forums. The Stakeholder Advisory Group will then make their recommendations for options to carry forward to Level 3 on September 26th.

The Elected Leadership Group is then scheduled to meet in early October to select options for Level 3 on October 5th.

Thanks to Sound Transit for holding these Level 2 neighborhood forums before the Stakeholder Advisory Group makes its recommendation. I appreciate their responsiveness to the West Seattle community’s concerns about the timing of the Level 1 neighborhood meeting taking place after the Stakeholder Advisory Group’s had made their recommendations.

 


SPU/SCL Call Center Update

In March I wrote about the Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light shared call center and the work that was being done to decrease the wait times and increase service levels. This week I had an opportunity to tour the call center and I received another update on call wait times and abandonment rates. Here are two charts that compare this year’s performance with that of last year.

As you can see, the average wait time (the amount of time someone is on hold) has dropped significantly; in turn that has helped to reduce the abandonment rate (when someone calls and hangs up before speaking with a representative). Anecdotally, I have also received less constituent correspondence about billing and call center issues.

The performance achieved is due in no small part to the hiring of 18 new temporary employees that SPU brought on to manage the workload. I also learned this week that staffing levels have not increased at the call center since 2001. Obviously, the city and service needs of the utilities has grown a lot since then, as such SPU will be requesting from the Mayor 24 new full-time positions by the end of 2020. In addition to the new employees, the call center is now operating an hour later on week days (until 7pm), as well as four hours on Saturdays (8:30am – 12:30pm).

You will notice, however from the graphs above, that the real test will come between July and the end of September. These months typically see a very large increase in calls due to seasonal moves, specifically for college students.

Again, I will continue to monitor this issue and if you have an issue with your utility bill, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov) in my office.


In-District Office Hours

On July 27, I will be at the Southwest Neighborhood Service Center (2801 SW Thistle St) from 2:00 p.m. – 6:45 p.m. Please be sure to arrive no later than 6:30 p.m., the final meeting of the day will begin at 6:30 p.m.

These hours are walk-in friendly, but if you would like to let me know you’re coming in advance you can email my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov).

Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.

Friday, September 21, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, October 26, 2018
Southwest Neighborhood Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St

Friday, December 14, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

 


Upcoming Police Chief Confirmation and Council Questions

The Mayor is considering three potential candidates to appoint as Seattle’s next Chief of Police. After the Mayor selects a nominee, the Council will consider and vote on the nominee.

I want a chief who can successfully manage the Police Department to uphold public safety; implement the reforms required by the Department of Justice; carefully manage budgets, and work productively to build trust with the community.

Overseeing executive departments and ensuring accountability are important functions of the City Council. As part of the confirmation process, the Council will submit questions to the Mayor’s nominee. I’d like to invite District 1 constituents to send me questions you’d like to ask the Mayor’s appointee to answer. I’ll be submitting questions to Councilmember González, who, as Chair of the committee that oversees SPD, will be compiling Council questions.

Please send any questions to me by next Wednesday the 18th.

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