Fund Shelter for the Homeless, Stop the Sweeps!

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On February 16, 2016, Council discussed the $2.3 million that activists won during the last budget cycle for shelter space and homelessness in general. In the discussion, I once again asked my colleagues to support spending $10 million from the Emergency Subfund to fund the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness’ plan for 1,000 addition shelter beds. I also asked them join my call on the Mayor to stop the sweeps now. Please sign our petition to support $10 million for shelters, and to stop the sweeps. For more, see the two discussions below*.

*Seattle Channel clips are best viewed in Firefox.

Transcript as delivered

Firstly, I am of course glad to vote in favor of lifting the proviso to allow the $2.3 million to be spent on homeless services, particularly an increase in shelter beds.

As we recall, this was the budget amendment that was passed by the Council after the Mayor submitted his 2016 budget, and after the State of Emergency was declared.

Homeless advocates and activists will remember that grassroots pressure was required to make this a reality.

Particularly, I wanted to commend the Seattle Human Services Coalition and the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, and former Councilmember Licata who found the funds to make this possible.

As we know, and as Councilmember Bagshaw said, this will make a difference. But I wanted to join her in saying that we should be clear in saying that the solutions have to be in proportion to the scale of the problem. And we know that the problem is far bigger.

At the end of the day, the success metric cannot be, “Well, we’ve spent so much; now, we can’t spend any more.” These are human beings, so we have to do whatever it takes.

Obviously, as the One Night Count indicated, the problem – far from being solved – is growing.

I also think that some good points have been made. There is no one single solution. I think the people who are making points about the need for additional funding for social services directly related to drug addiction – I think that is absolutely correct. That is a part of what we need.

I also join Councilmember Juarez, and I thank her, for pointing out the geographic disparities, the social service deserts. I think that is accurate, and that also needs to be addressed.

We need to do everything in our power. And we haven’t done everything in our power.

During the same budget discussions in which Councilmember Licata found the funds to make what we’re doing today possible, I had also proposed $10 million out of the Emergency Subfund for 1,000 shelter beds immediately. This was a proposal that was brought forward by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness.

I hope that now, after a few months have passed, the scale of the crisis is clear to all elected officials. I really hope that councilmembers will approve the $10 million proposal in the first quarter supplemental budget of this year. I intend to bring it up.

And I also invite all members of the public to join me in the People’s Assembly where this is the main call to action on homelessness on February 27 at 12:30 pm.

Councilmember Bagshaw: “I have just one thing that I’d like to add, and that is, I’m not talking about shelter beds. The idea of people being sent out at 6:30 in the morning, and maybe have a space where they can come in the afternoon. I’m talking about places where they can be 24 hours a day.”

Just very quickly, Councilmember Bagshaw, I totally support that. Any proposal you make to greatly alleviate the suffering of homeless people, I am absolutely there with you. So, if you want to discuss how to spend the $10 million, I am absolutely for that, but my concern is, let’s show the political leadership, and actually spend those $10 million. In various emergency funds, the City has $106 million right now. The money is there. We have declared a state of emergency. Let’s do it. I am happy to work with any councilmember that really wants to push that forward. And I’m happy that you’re talking about it.

I wanted to thank Councilmember Herbold for bringing this amendment forward. It provides essential funds for unsanctioned encampments, and, as she said, these are infrastructure-type services that they need urgently (like garbage removal).

I am particularly glad that Councilmember Herbold has taken care to write this amendment in such a way that this appropriation may not be used for encampement removals.

I’m totally against the sweeps. Homeless advocates are against the sweeps. Councilmembers, I think, should join me and advocates in asking the Mayor to halt the sweeps. I appreciate that, in supporting this amendment, I will not be inadvertently providing any funding for sweeps.

I second Councilmember O’Brien’s reminder that this is just an intent to approve funding. For those of you who agree with this amendment in spirit, I urge you to actually vote yes. If you don’t agree with it, in spirit, then obviously you’ll be voting no.

As far as the question of where the funds will come from, we’re not dealing with that question right now. But there is a very simple answer – the Mayor’s Office right now is spending over a $1 million on sweeps. Stop the sweeps. Divert the funds to essential services that homeless people need.

And I would remind everybody that whether encampments are sanctioned or unsanctioned, we’re talking about human beings. Human beings are going to have the same needs – garbage removal is going to be the same need, whether it is sanctioned or unsanctioned. That doesn’t make a difference. You’re still going to need to have your trash removed. And the whole community wants the trash removed.

Again, I urge everybody to also support my proposal, which is really the proposal of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, on $10 million in emergency funding of whatever kind. I’m flexible on how best to achieve it, but I’m not flexible on the amount of funding that’s needed. Because it’s deeply underfunded.

The last point I will make is on process. For those of you who are new, I can tell you, I’ve been on the Council for two years, the process is not followed when it’s a question of immediately making sweetheart deals available for big corporations. The well-known “Seattle Process” is really a process that virtually grinds to a halt when it’s a question of making funds available for ordinary working people, the marginalized and oppressed. My personal appeal to everyone on this Council would be to follow your heart. If you think that’s the right thing to do, if you stand with the marginalized and the oppressed, then it’s the right thing to do.