Dear members of the Seattle City Council:
In the coming weeks, you will be debating and voting on the 2018 City budget. The budget is not simply numbers. It is a moral document that speaks to our priorities and values as a city.
Seattle has become two distinct, unequal cities: A city of boundless opportunity for the wealthy, and a city of soaring housing costs, escalating homelessness, and racially skewed policing for the rest of us.
We, the undersigned organizations, call on you to adopt a humane budget that reflects our values and tackles the problem of inequality:
- Stop the sweeps of homeless community members.
- Fund social services for everyone’s safety and health, as an alternative to sweeps.
- Fund services for homeless children in Seattle public schools and survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
- Urgently build more affordable housing.
Stop the sweeps
There are more than 8,500 people in Seattle experiencing homelessness, including nearly 4,000 unsheltered people. Under the previous mayoral administration, the city has conducted hundreds of sweeps of homeless encampments – 601 in 2016 alone. This policy of removing people has proved ineffective, only pushing people from one part of the city to another. It’s a waste of precious taxpayer resources. And it forces fragile community members into even more vulnerable situations, with many losing their belongings as a result of the sweeps.
The 2018 city budget should bar the use of funds for sweeps, and should instead dramatically increase funds for effective solutions to homelessness.
Fund vital services
We urgently need affordable housing. In the meanwhile, we need to ensure that people experiencing homelessness have immediate access to safe encampments and basic services, so they can gain stability in their lives and achieve permanent housing sooner. The 2018 budget should fund an increased number of city-authorized homeless encampments, and increase the funding for basic services. These steps are effective alternatives to carrying out sweeps.
The 2018 City budget should fund an increased number of authorized encampments with services, including garbage removal, sharps containers, pest control, and public restrooms, and access to washrooms and laundry services. It also should include funding for healthcare and human services workers to do outreach in the encampments.
Support children and survivors of abuse
Homelessness is a particularly difficult experience for children and young people, creating disruption and trauma in their lives. Given the alarming statistic that 1 in 15 K-12 students in Seattle public schools experiences homelessness, we need to prioritize housing and services for them, including shelter options, free food, social services, and affordable housing. Similarly, fully funding services for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual abuse and violence is a paramount moral duty of our community.
The 2018 City budget should prioritize the urgent needs for housing, shelter, food, and services experienced by homeless children in Seattle public schools, and survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse and violence.
Build much more affordable housing
The current pace of affordable housing is wholly inadequate to meet our needs, while the market worsens the problem. Working people are being priced out of our city by soaring rents and mortgages and speculating developers and real estate investment corporations. Housing costs are a stark indictment of the failure of the private sector to fulfill human needs.
The 2018 City budget must help greatly accelerate the pace of construction of publicly-funded affordable housing.
We are united in our determination to see that each of these items gets incorporated into the 2018 City budget. We are committed to organize and mobilize to demand a budget that is a moral document, serving all.
Very truly yours,
Name of organization: