According to this year’s One Night Count, there are over 12,000 people living on the streets of Seattle. Tents and broken RVs fill our streets and sidewalks, all while shelter beds are available. Meanwhile, organizations like SHARE and WHEEL operate low-barrier tiny home villages, where drugs are allowed and crime runs rampant. Every time a sweep is done by the Navigation Team, they find children in the squalor, sometimes even victims of child trafficking. They also find weapons and dangerous animals.
Estimates are that between 55% and 85% of the total population of these encampments and RVs arrived to the city already homeless.
Meanwhile, Seattle’s homeless are not able to get the services they need. According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, homelessness has cost the Seattle area over one billion dollars per year which equals over $100,000 for every homeless man, woman, and child in Seattle.
So what can we do?
- Cutting of Funds from Ineffective Organizations – Audit every homeless assistance group. Those that do not meet the basic qualifications for successfully provided services must have their funding eliminated immediately.
- Support Effective Organizations – Non-profits such as Mary’s Place, The Millionaire’s Club, and Union Gospel Mission, with a proven track record, need to be supported, celebrated and publicized to the community as a whole.
- Declare Homelessness a Public Health Disaster – Follow the lead of the King County Health doctors who are demanding all un-sheltered people be immediately triaged and sheltered in FEMA-style shelters. A warm bed and immediate medical attention are necessary as the weather changes. End the low barrier encampments and increase transitional housing to get people out of homelessness. Anyone requesting city services must be background checked and verified before receiving those services so the city is not enabling repeat offenders like they are today.
- Reduce cost of rent and home ownership – by increasing the supply through tax breaks and re-zoning (see links for more about fixing Zoning Laws and Tax Policy).
- Differentiate – between those looking to get help and those who have no interest in helping themselves. (See more about addressing the Opioid Crisis here and Safety here.)
- Reallocate funding towards mental health treatment and care. Work with the State and County to provide excellent mental health care and treatment by bringing our mental health facilities and hospitals up to code and create a safe environment for staff and patients.
Homelessness is an issue that impacts so many. The above options are just that: options. What we truly need is to perform an actual, statistically accurate, homeless head count to find out who is homeless, why are they homeless, where they are from, what services are required, and what practical and customized solutions can be implemented. Only then can we truly take meaningful steps forward.