The City Council voted this afternoon to continue an effective and compassionate approach to homelessness that focuses on funding permanent housing and other essential services rather than allowing additional tent encampments throughout our city.
When prevention efforts are not sufficient, the best strategy for dealing with homelessness—proven in many cities across the country—is to help people into permanent housing quickly. This is exactly what the Council directed in June when we authorized an additional $500,000 to help those living at the Nickelsville encampment in West Seattle find a place to live. The City now provides more than $30 million each year to provide homes and hope to the homeless.
As of last Friday, July 26th, 87 individuals at Nickelsville have completed a case management assessment, 18 have been placed in housing and are receiving services and 13 have declined services. This hard work and progress will continue.
Legislation rejected by the Council today would have allowed tent encampments in industrial areas and most commercial zones of the city. They would have also been allowed within 25 feet of single family residential areas. The legislation was well-intentioned, but ultimately counter to our goal of providing permanent solutions.
The proliferation of encampments is not a solution to homelessness. The Obama administration wrote Mayor McGinn in early June expressing the position that “sanctioned encampments are not a solution to homelessness, nor do they serve well those who are experiencing homelessness.” (Read the entire letter here.)
Every year since I joined the Council in 2008, we have boosted city government investments in protecting our most vulnerable people, including those experiencing homelessness. We have expanded the number of emergency shelter beds and hours, especially for women and families. We have increased support for our network of food banks and other social services. Most importantly, we have continued to invest millions of dollars each year in building affordable housing.The City already has limited avenues for allowing encampments (on religious properties or through a temporary use permit process). Rather than multiplying tent cities, the Council will continue to strengthen our compassionate commitment to provide real housing and supportive services to prevent and end homelessness in Seattle.