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Councilmembers Herbold, Morales Respond to Mayor’s Announcement Regarding Navigation Team

Call on the Mayor to ‘immediately move’ additional $1.4M Council provided for outreach, commit to ‘not destroying’ belongings 

Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1 – West Seattle and South Park) and Councilmember Tammy J. Morales (District 2 – Chinatown-International District and Southeast Seattle) responded to Wednesday’s announcement by Mayor Durkan regarding the Navigation Teams:

“The Council didn’t just cut funding for the Navigation Team, we re-allocated that funding – an additional $1.4 million for this year – to homelessness outreach contracts and housing navigation services and financial assistance.  The Mayor must not simply get rid of the Navigation Team while not spending new funding the Council has made available for the kind of outreach organizations like REACH, DESC, Chief Seattle Club, LEAD and the Urban League do in order to help connect people living outdoors to services.” said Councilmember Herbold

“The decision by the Council to move past the Navigation Team and shift to a model supported by community was not made in haste. It took years of discussions and organizing with outreach workers, shelter providers, healthcare workers, and unhoused neighbors. For me and my staff, it started before taking office. We have listened to those most affected by this crisis. Our decision to enhance services provided by these organizations very deliberately puts their expertise and lived experience front and center.” said Councilmember Morales

The Mayor’s response to Council’s budget decisions – ignoring the $1.4 million that Council provided to increase outreach, engagement, and resources available to service people living in encampments; the threat to dispose of property that the City is currently storing for people without homes – threaten to increase harm and misery and manufacture chaos.  Sadly, the people hurt most will be those struggling the most just to live. 

“Let’s be clear. The Council had a plan. That plan would increase services and allow the Navigation Team a smooth cooperative transition. What the Mayor is offering this week is counter to that plan, and honestly doesn’t serve our housed or unhoused neighbors. Neither does it start to repair the relationship between our constituents living outside and our City,” said Councilmember Morales.

The City contracts with these outreach providers and those contracts include performance metrics which must be met. In 2019, outreach providers who contracted with the City reported a 51% success rate, meaning half the people they work with gain permanent housing, according to the City’s Q4 2019 Homeless Investment Performance Outcomes report last month.  By contrast, the Navigation Team’s success rate – meaning the percentage of people they work with who actually arrive in a shelter – is as low as 6%, according to the City’s Q1 2020 Nav Team report. There’s simply no comparison.

This is especially disappointing because, during conversations with the Mayor’s Office last month, they laid out a vision for working with people living in encampments that we believe reflects the shared values and goals of Council and the Executive, an approach that would prioritize working with contracted providers to provide outreach, services, and information to encampment residents; secure voluntary compliance to mitigate hazards and obstructions; and minimize public health risks and involuntary relocations or removals.

“As I stated Wednesday night at my virtual Town Hall, I know there is a lot of concern — which I understand — about getting rid of the Navigation Team.  The Navigation Team was put in place three and a half years ago, and at the start the needs seemed obvious.  But now years later we see that the problems they were intended to solve remain, and are clearly worse.  We know these funds can be used in a better, more actionable way/manner.” said Councilmember Herbold.

“Quite frankly, the City’s approach to his crisis so far has been both unfair to unhoused people and disingenuous to the rest of us. When something isn’t working, we should fix it, not double down.” said Councilmember Morales “The Navigation Team model has not lived up to its promise and, while my constituents have been feeling let down by the City’s response to homelessness, my office has worked with partners like REACH, LEAD, and Public Utilities to engage with encampment residents. These organizations are doing the work on the ground, day in and day out – even during a pandemic. It’s time that we push more resources toward organizations trusted by unhoused neighbors, who are building those relationships and who truly know how to navigate this system.”

We agree with the Mayor that we need that coordinated, compassionate, and constructive effort to address homelessness. We call on the Mayor to immediately move to contract the additional $1.4 million that Council made available for outreach, housing navigation services, and financial assistance and to commit to not destroying or disposing of the belongings of City residents who lack safe places to store them.”

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