One Seattle: Mayor Harrell announces homeless strategy, relies on agency he has limited control over

Pledging to be the most transparent mayor in Seattle’s history, Bruce Harrell unveiled his administration’s homelessness strategy on Tuesday.

However, Harrell’s plan relies heavily on the King County Regional Homeless Authority (KCRHA), an agency previous mayors did not have.

"We are opening up the data for everyone to see, so you can see what I see," Harrell said during his announcement.

The transparency he speaks of is a public-facing dashboard updated quarterly that anyone can view online and track the progress of the city’s placement of individuals into housing, encampment removals and spending.  

It’s called the One Seattle Homelessness Action Plan, part of a ‘One Seattle’-branding technique the Mayor has been using since he took office at the beginning of the year.

Seattle’s total spending on homelessness has increased 125% over the last few years, going from $77 million to $173 million in 2022.

The largest portion of this year’s spending—$118 million—will be going to the KCRHA for outreach services and housing. The City will spend $9.8 million on removals of encampments and RVs, $14.7 million on garbage pick-up and hygiene services, $10 million on access to services and health, and $18.8 million on the purchase of the 70-unit Dockside Apartments in Green Lake.

Harrell and his team announced his homelessness plan on the front doorstep of the apartment building. 22 units will be for individuals earning 50% of the area median income, which is $45,300 per year.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell unveils city’s homelessness plan

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell released details Tuesday on the city’s plans to address homelessness. 

However, KCRHA will manage the building and choosing the people who will call it home.

The city’s efforts to remove people off the street will depend on the shelter beds and housing available on any given day, said Tiffany Washington, Harrell’s Deputy Mayor on Homelessness.

Washington said the key to placement will be clearing the log jam of people staying in transitional housing and not getting into permanent housing.

"We have enough beds—we don't need to build a bigger emergency room, we need people moving through them," said Washington.

Part of the new strategy will be following a specific set of criteria for encampment and RV removals.

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"Is the environment safe, the condition of the people that are living there, it takes in proximity to vulnerable populations like a daycare or school, but we are testing this criteria, it has not been finalized," Washington explained.

Washington said she’s the ultimate decision maker on which encampments get cleared first, after deliberations with other city departments.