Too many people in Seattle have experienced homelessness for far too long. Our region’s success economically has caused growing pains, displacing housing that was once affordable and accessible. Meanwhile, those facing challenges related to physical, mental, or behavioral health, domestic violence and other abuse, or challenges in obtaining basic needs continue to struggle.
While some city services and programs have helped alleviate the problem for some, the crisis persists and in some areas has only grown worse. The most immediate need for many experiencing homeless is access to the support they may need. In the most recent survey of people living unsheltered in the city, many communicated a lack of outreach services, communication, and insufficient resources across the city. Providing that kind of support and stability in their lives can make the difference for many of those suffering homelessness.
There are several emergency measures I would take to set the table for more permanent solutions. First of all, we should have sanctioned encampments in areas where services are available--public safety, mental health services, and sanitation. As mayor, I will tackle this problem with urgency and work towards having solutions in place before the next rainy season.
The second step is that there is more experience now with secure short-term housing, or tiny homes. They’re not a permanent solution, but as a drier place to sleep where people can keep their possessions safe, they’re a good investment. There are a lot of unions and other non-governmental entities that are eager to step up and provide that kind of housing. By partnering with them, we can help have a greater impact on more lives.
As always, a constant assessment of what’s working and what isn’t is key to our success. With so many homeless respondents stating that resources just aren’t reaching those in need, the city must produce a greater set of metrics of each and every service available, measure their performance, and adapt accordingly. One way in which to do so is inventory the shelter space that the city can access. There are other buildings that King County has, that Seattle has, that other entities have, that even the private sector has, that could serve as shelters.
We must invest resources where they will be most effective. That requires us to get residents into safe, stable, and affordable housing now and connect them with the community-based services and support they require.
I firmly believe that those who have benefited from the amazing economic growth in our city must help us find solutions for those who have been displaced by it, and I will be seeking out partners in the private sector do so. That will entail addressing the income gap in our city. I have helped lead efforts to support a higher minimum wage in Washington, but even at the higher level of minimum wage, a worker at that level cannot find affordable housing in Seattle. We need to be pushing the envelope now on income and wealth so that in the longer term, we can secure the resources to continue to make these investments for everyone in our city.
Ultimately, the greatest impact we can have on their lives is focusing on ample long-term affordable housing. We know what works and what is needed to truly address the homelessness crisis in our city and region. The next mayor of Seattle must tackle homelessness with this holistic approach, and I am fully committed to doing so.