SEATTLE – As you walk around downtown Seattle, Sodo and every pocket of the city, one thing is clear: A growing homeless population.
Some 19,000 men, women, and children cycled through Seattle’s homeless population last year. That number continues to rise as the city spends 70% of its $50 million homeless budget on emergency shelters.
On Thursday, city and King County leaders, along with nonprofit organizations, admitted that plan isn’t working.
The new action plan announced today (Thursday) is called “Pathways Home.” The report released to the Seattle City Council Thursday named a number of key elements to reduce homelessness, which includes connecting people to services, expanding 24 hour shelters, and helping people on waiting lists get into shelters and then to permanent housing.
“I’m homeless. It’s not fun,” said a homeless man called “John,” who did not want to be identified.
It’s been eight months since John moved from Detroit to Seattle as a homeless person looking for a better life.
“A lot of people have no ID, have no felonies, a lot of people need rehab,” said John.
That includes his friends who live in the homeless encampment “The Jungle.”
Step one of the new proposal calls for figuring out the needs of each individual homeless person.
“Bringing case managers in to help people move and get people on the path out of homelessness,” said All Home Director Mark Putnam.
Secondly, using partner agencies with a proven track record of success. Next, solving homelessness by providing housing.
“Move them into rapid housing, using rental assistance, or into permanent units, then we free up a lot of room in our shelters,” said Putnam.
That could mean building new 24-hour shelters throughout the county.
Daniel Sackett bikes by “The Jungle” daily, hoping for a change, even if it comes out of his pockets.
“Wel,l I voted for the housing levy so I would have to say yes,” said Sackett.
Where those new shelters will go or which shelters will expand isn’t clear.
“If we’re going to solve this problem, we need a place for them to be. This isn’t a solution that can be exported so we need to make the solutions really integrated into our community,” said Putnam.
And, lastly, address racial disparities. All of the items on the action plan are long term.
“They need to do it; not talk about it,” said John.