In this week’s issue of Real Change, Councilmembers were asked about the homelessness crisis here in Seattle. For space limitations, I provided abbreviated answers. Longer responses to these critical questions can be read below.
1) What do you want to get done on homelessness in the next year?
The Mayor declared homelessness a Civil State of Emergency in Seattle. During budget discussions this past November, I proposed $10 million in emergency funding, as recommended by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, to fund an additional 1,000 shelter beds. I will continue to advocate for this emergency funding.
Research also shows that every time there is a $100 increase in the median rent in metro areas, there is a 15% increase in homelessness. Last year I urged the City Council to take a stand against skyrocketing market rents in this city, and for the need for rent control. Due to pressure on the ground, the Council passed a resolution urging the Washington State Legislature to repeal the ban on rent control.
Additionally, Seattle needs to build thousands of city-owned affordable housing units. I will continue to advocate for this. Big developers continue to avoid paying their fair share to fund affordable housing, and they have manipulated the housing debates to perpetually delay action. Taxing the super-rich and big business to fund affordable housing for working people is necessary to end homelessness.
What we can win depends of the strength of mass movements, as has been demonstrated by the victory on $15/hour and the rent control resolution. This year I will continue to advocate for the city to use its bonding capacity to build city-owned housing. I will also continue to strenuously support homeless activists fighting for each small victory for a better life. That is how we won city land and funding for encampments. That is how we win additional resources for shelter and services in every budget. Most urgently, we have the opportunity to fight for the $10 million emergency funding recommended by the King County Coalition on Homelessness to add 1000 shelter beds.
2) Do you agree with the city’s current sweeps procedures? If not, what would you change?
No. Sweeping homeless encampments is inhumane. Sweeps often take away the only shelter from people that have nowhere else to go. To do so in the middle of winter during a homeless crisis is especially objectionable. The rational and humane response is to fund shelter beds, enact policies to make housing affordable in the city, and to tax the wealthy to generate funds for mental health and allied social services.
3) Do you support allowing tent encampments in residential areas?
Yes. I have talked to people who live all over the city who would be happy to welcome an encampment in their neighborhood. Most encampments hosted by religious institutions are already in residential neighborhoods. Problems can be created, however, if there is not sufficient discussion and cooperation between the city, the neighborhood, and the encampment. The city has a responsibility to help facilitate this collaboration, and I am confident regular people in Seattle will find ways to support these efforts.