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Council President Harrell Establishes Select Committee on Homelessness and Housing Affordability

Council President Bruce Harrell (District 2, South Seattle) today announced the establishment of a Select Committee on Homelessness and Housing Affordability.

Select Committees are created by the Council President and comprised of all nine Councilmembers to comprehensively and effectively conduct the business of the Council, as outlined by Council Rules (SECT. VII)

Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw (District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia), Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8 – Citywide) and Kshama Sawant (District 3 – Central Seattle) will serve as co-chairs. The complete committee meeting schedule will be announced at a later date.

“As President of the Council, I feel compelled to change our approach to coordinating and communicating to the public about the city’s homelessness response. While we have made progress with our standing committees that oversee the Human Services Department in defining outcomes and reporting and executing a plan, the public demands more. With that in mind, I am proposing a new and more centralized approach through a committee of all nine Councilmembers focused on this issue,” said Council President Harrell.

“Whether you are an individual experiencing homelessness, an advocate, a homeowner, a renter, business owner, or employee, we as a City remain compassionate for the plight of those experiencing homelessness. There also seems to be a growing intolerance of the current conditions where individuals are living in tents on public right of ways or unsafe areas. We should have the highest standard and, in fact, share a common goal of striving to help all individuals experiencing homelessness transition into permanent housing and providing help to those with mental illness.

“This has been one of the most difficult and complicated problems Seattle has ever been asked to solve. We hear from advocates saying that because we don’t have the affordable housing resources, camping should be tolerated. Conversely, we hear from property owners and business owners saying they pay a large portion of the city’s taxes and expect the city to enforce the law.

“There are clearly different views on how to address Seattle’s homelessness crisis. While there are differences of opinions on homelessness enforcement and taxation to generate additional resources, I think we will continue spinning our wheels if we label those differences as simply opposing sides. My expectation of the Select Committee is to have a transparent working committee that develops strong policy and investment decisions, as well as enforcement strategies.”

Objectives of the Select Committee:

  1. Establish the groundwork by clearly defining the homelessness problem to aid the Council’s budget deliberations in October-November. This includes describing the City’s current efforts to address homelessness and any resource gaps.
  2. Describe comprehensively the City’s efforts in homelessness response. As many as 16 City departments and offices are involved in the city’s homelessness response. The City departments and offices include Office of the Auditor, City Budget Office, Department of Construction and Inspections, Finance and Administrative Services, City Attorney’s Office, Fire Department, Police Department, Office of Housing, Human Services Department, Department of Neighborhoods, Parks and Recreation, Seattle City Light, Seattle Public Utilities, Libraries, Office for Civil Rights, and Department of Transportation.
    1. What are the City’s overarching rules and/or policies on addressing homelessness? What are the department’s current homelessness response procedure(s) for unauthorized encampments?
    2. Each department (except Office of the Auditor, City Attorney’s Office, and City Budget Office) will describe its:
      1. Function and responsibilities in addressing homelessness.
      2. Performance measurements.
      3. Characteristics of the homeless population served.
      4. Annual budget and number of employees allocated to addressing homelessness over the past five years, and what, if any, departmental work has been or continues to be displaced.
      5. Costs to deliver services compared to other jurisdictions and any lessons learned.
      6. Need for additional resources to improve performance.
      7. Description of coordination efforts with the other City departments.
    3. Quantitative and/or qualitative data used to assess needs such as the “Find It/Fix It” submittals.
  3. Examination of budgetary allocations and consideration of creative solutions for additional resources.
  4. Define “Clarity of Instructions” to our city departments involved with the city’s homelessness response.
  5. Learn about and enhance regional partnership efforts with King County and Washington State, and partnerships or opportunities for partnerships with philanthropic institutions, as well as faith-based organizations.
  6. Explore “outside-the-box” thinking and strategies other jurisdictions have used such as different safe parking models.

The schedule for the Select Committee is forthcoming and will be available online at a later date.

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