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Councilmember Morales Urges Mayor to Reconsider Essential Hoteling Services for Homeless Neighbors and Seek FEMA Reimbursement

Councilmember Tammy J. Morales issued the following statement after Mayor Durkan and her administration declined to open additional hotel shelters for our homeless neighbors and seek FEMA reimbursement to offset the cost:

“Homelessness is by far the biggest issue that my office responds to on a regular basis. Everyone is frustrated at what appears on the outside to be a lack of willingness from our City to react to the plight faced by unhoused people. This is why my staff and I have personally worked with providers like JustCARE, REACH, LEAD and LIHI to engage with, offer services to, and shelter unhoused neighbors in District 2. That’s why we’ve visited neighbors living unhoused and worked with mutual aid groups to get folks much needed supplies. It’s why we worked hard to stand up the Homeslessness Outreach & Provider Ecosystem (HOPE) and why we’ve advocated for more hotel and tiny house funding. 

“City Council is using all of the tools at our disposal – legislation, advocacy, budget actions. We’re even going outside of our scope of work to connect people to services and shelter. Those actions can only do so much. We need a partner in the Executive. The least we can ask is for the Executive, the branch of government with the most power to change this situation, to spend money on services when it’s available and listen to the recommendations of experts in this field.

“Right now, we urgently need to expand non-congregate shelter for people who are outdoors and are especially vulnerable to COVID, and we have an opportunity to get Federal money to allow us to do it. Even if there are logistical challenges, it is incumbent upon this City to try to overcome those issues to save people who are stuck living outside and scared of dying from COVID. 

“We have to use every tool available to us to move people off the streets and into safe shelter, especially during this pandemic, and hoteling has proven to be a successful tool. In District 2, we’ve seen how that work can be transformative. JustCARE brought a large group of people into shelter while working with my office to meet the needs of nearby businesses and residents. Here’s the tool. It works.”

“To leave FEMA funding on the table, when the Biden administration has said reimbursement is possible, is frustrating to say the least. It is cruel to unhoused neighbors who would take a hotel room if one were offered, and it’s perplexing to my constituents who wonder why we’d rather let people sleep outside or in other places where they are at risk of contracting COVID.”

“My constituents are mad. All of Seattle is mad, and to be honest, I’m mad too. If the Mayor is worried about risk or logistical hurdles, I say taking a risk or jumping a hurdle is important if it saves even one more life. You must try.”

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