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City Council passes new path forward for encampment outreach

The Council legislation came out of a collaborative drafting process with service providers and the Mayor’s office

 The Seattle City Council passed in a 7-1 vote Council Bill 119942, which will significantly change the way Seattle engages with people living unsheltered in unauthorized encampments for the last two months of the year. The bill, which was a collaboration between Council, service providers and the Mayor’s office, was sponsored by Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis (District 7, Magnolia to Pioneer Square), chair of the Council’s Select Committee on Homelessness Strategies and Investments.

“This legislation is a first step towards an engagement policy that is centered on provider outreach,” Councilmember Lewis said. “By establishing that service providers will be at the front lines of our homelessness crisis, with City staff in a coordinating role, we can stop overemphasizing the role of police and underemphasizing the role of our service providers in facing this crisis.”

The bill appropriates $2,074,000 to maintain and expand contracts for homelessness outreach and engagement, including behavioral health services, case management, housing navigation services, and to support technology and other administrative needs of contracted service providers. The bill also changes the way City staff will respond to unsheltered encampments, moving staff in the Human Services Department to a coordinating role.

This legislation is coupled with a new framework of shared principles for response to people living unsheltered, which will be used to frame discussions between service providers, City Council, and the Executive to come up with a more permanent model funded through the 2021 budget. The framework was crafted by service providers in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office.

“This new framework recognizes the value of all stakeholders – the people who live and work in each neighborhood, both housed and unhoused.  I see this framework as the first step in a shift toward a problem-solving model, so that in the future, when an outreach team is sent, the initial purpose isn’t assumed to be removing the encampment,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold.  “There is more work to be done to operationalize the framework over the next several weeks, and to ensure that the new approach truly serves the needs of people living unsheltered, of groups of people in encampments, and of their housed neighbors and neighboring businesses.  Crucially, Council, the Executive, and outreach providers themselves will be working to build this new problem-solving approach together.” 

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