The homeless state of emergency in Seattle and King County demands urgent and bold action. Last week, the City of Seattle, King County, United Way of King County, and All Home released consultant reports which recommended changes to our homeless crisis response system. We are committed to significant data driven changes to our current approach. We will house people experiencing homelessness quickly, and help them stabilize and stay in housing.
While the reports suggest that unsheltered homelessness could be addressed with no additional funding if all recommended changes are made, they also make clear that new and expanded investments in best practices are necessary, including shelter diversion, rapid rehousing, affordable housing, and permanent supportive housing.
The magnitude of the crisis of 10,000 people in our community experiencing homelessness daily means changes will take time and resources. Our region is facing a housing affordability crisis, where rents in Seattle have risen 49% and 48% in King County over the last 5 years. Our ability to reduce homelessness, therefore, is heavily reliant on sustaining and growing state and federal investments in homeless assistance as well as affordable housing and supportive services, including:
- Homeless crisis response services to get people off the street and rapidly into housing.
- Permanent supportive housing to stabilize people with disabilities experiencing chronic homelessness.
- Affordable housing to help formerly homeless families and individuals achieve stability.
- Behavioral health services to provide adequate care for those in crisis and long-term stability for people with chronic disabilities.
We will soon communicate our priorities for the 2017 state legislative session. Our agendas are likely to include effective approaches already supported by the State:
- Significant investment in the Housing Trust Fund.
- Renewal and expansion of Document Recording Fees.
- Implementation of the Medicaid Supportive Housing benefit.
- Local affordable housing options.
- Robust investment in the behavioral health system.
Seattle and King County now have the most thorough and comprehensive understanding of our homeless crisis response system. We are committed to supporting those experiencing homelessness, and believe our new approach is an example of good local government that responds to requests made by the legislature and other public and philanthropic funders to make homelessness rare, brief and one-time.
For more information on the systems transformation, click here.