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Councilmember Lewis’ Legislation to Leverage Federal Investments for Homelessness Shelter

The legislation will provide the City with more flexibility to stand up emergency shelter; a third hotel shelter is announced

Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis (District 7, Magnolia to Pioneer Square) introduced legislation to appropriate $12 million in spending authority for non-congregate shelter investments for people experiencing homelessness. It is Councilmember Lewis’ intent that to the greatest extent possible, City agencies spend these funds in a way that allows for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The legislation, which will be walked-on today incorporates feedback from the Mayor’s Office, FEMA, the City Budget Office, and service providers. Most immediately, the legislation allows the City to finance the cost of leasing a third hotel to temporarily house people living unsheltered. 

“Based on conversations I have had with FEMA officials, reimbursement can be sought for non-congregate shelter to house our homeless neighbors who are 65-years-old or older and have comorbidities or conditions rendering them more vulnerable to Covid-19,” Lewis said. “We know with certainty hundreds of our homeless neighbors live on the streets with these health challenges. With these new resources we can invest to make sure Seattleites can live comfortably and with dignity, not in a park encampment, doorway, or vehicle.”

In the coming weeks, the City Council will be working with the Mayor and County government to craft a plan for the new federal funding through the American Rescue Plan that was signed into law on March 11, 2021. The City has announced that it will open up two hotel-based enhanced shelters totaling up to 221non-congregate hotel rooms by the end of March. 

“Bringing more people inside is both the right thing to do and critical for our emergency response. As Mayor, we have invested an unprecedented level of resources for enhanced shelter, tiny homes, diversion, rapid rehousing, and permanent housing; yet we know the City has never been able to scale to the crisis alone, especially as the City is serving many individuals who were living outside of Seattle when they became homeless. I appreciate Councilmember Lewis’s commitment to providing additional funds to address the homelessness crisis that will allow us to further leverage federal resources in the American Rescue Plan,” said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan who has been working with other Mayors, HUD leadership, and FEMA to address funding challenges. “We will continue to use every option available to the City from new federal funds to current city resources to new commitments by county, state, business, and philanthropy to address unmet needs on housing, shelter, and behavioral health. If we want to address the crises of homelessness and a once-in-a-generation pandemic, we will need a region-wide focus to move more people into safer places.”  

Furthermore, the City has announced locations for two new tiny house villages that will open in the coming months in the University District and North Seattle. While the City Council appropriated funding for three tiny house villages in 2021, Councilmember Lewis’ “It Takes A Village” proposal has raised more than $2 million in private funding to scale up those investments. 

“Whether or not we are able to provide people living unsheltered with a safe, comfortable alternative to sleeping in public spaces will be the single most important factor in Seattle’s economic recovery, its cultural recovery, and it’s psychological recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic,” Lewis said. “President Joe Biden is demonstrating the importance of competent national leadership, and as federal money begins to flow to states it is imperative we as City officials rise to meet the challenge he has laid before us: To build our cities back better so that everyone living in Seattle is granted that absolute human right to a warm bed in a room they can call their own. I am grateful for the Mayor’s leadership to stand up an additional hotel shelter for people living unhoused and her commitment to leveraging every federal and local resource available to scale emergency shelter.”

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