Seattle's Failed Policies Need to be Addressed by the City Government

Updated on April 5, 2017

A presenting dilemma

Q13 Fox News staff writer, Nadia Romero, published an article on April 4th (See, Tech Jobs Changing Face and Costs of Western Washington) Seattle Times staff contributors, Daniel Beekman and Vernal Coleman, wrote a piece that was published on April 3, 2017 (See, Seattle mayor drops property-tax plan, now seeks county sales tax to fight homelessness)

The City of Seattle is continually engaged in a battle between the rising Homeless population, decrease in affordable housing (even for the middle class) and the lack of social services to begin addressing and resolving the presenting dilemma.

Take a drive around the Downtown area, or surrounding greater metropolitan area of Seattle and you will see tent's pitched on sidewalks, view able along the I-5 Corridor going through downtown, and the many individuals sleeping in doorways.

According to the Seattle/King County Coalition One Night Count of 2016, there were approximately 4,500 men, women, and children without shelter. The coalition identified five significant reasons for homelessness in Seattle, and in King County:

  1. Lack of Affordable housing
  2. Poverty
  3. Untreated mental health and/or substance use disorder (addiction)
  4. Unemployment
  5. Domestic Violence

For the premise of this article, the three major barriers to appropriate housing, and social services, as major contributions to the causation of homelessness are: (1) Lack of Affordable Housing because of poverty, unemployment, and underemployment; (2) Untreated and/or treated Mental Health issues; And, (3) Substance Use Disorder (to include the increase in the opioid epidemic that has swept across our nation).

While the City Council of Seattle, and Mayor Ed Murray, feel that King County and Seattlelites ought to carry more taxation burden in an ever increasing trainwreck of high rent increase and cost of living, they appear to be completely detached from the reality of real and practical solutions in implementing appropriate public policies that address these social issues.

Mayor Ed Murray

eattle Mayor Ed Murray said he would pursue a sales-tax increase to raise money for programs to fight homelessness. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)
eattle Mayor Ed Murray said he would pursue a sales-tax increase to raise money for programs to fight homelessness. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times) | Source

What Seattle may want to do

Housing first programs appear to be the more appropriate approach to working toward a healthier resolution in addressing our homeless issues. This requires particular assertive and progressive public policies that will assist individuals to get into adequate housing. This may be done without any increase in property taxes, sales, taxes, or anything else. The issue at hand is that Seattle Government appears to be more salient in funding projects that appear to be more detrimental and burdensome to Seattle. ST3 Transit's recent deception, the over-budgeted viaduct tunnel, and the continued talk of what to do with Key Arena and building a new Arena. This also includes in the boom of costly luxury apartments that appear to target more of those who come to work for tech industries than individuals who work in other areas within the city of Seattle and King County.

In fact, based on a news article the Seattle Times published in September 2016, the following observation is made:

The reports by homelessness consultants recommend that Seattle and its area partners begin measuring programs strictly by the number of people they move into housing rather than by the number of people they serve.

They say the city and partners like King County should reallocate money from programs that perform poorly to programs that perform well by that measure.

The reports say existing programs are serving too many people who aren’t literally homeless — people whose situations are unstable but who still have shelter, such as those living with relatives or close to eviction.

And they say too many existing programs are inefficient. The area has more than 300 different homeless programs administered by more than 100 organizations.

The presenting problem is, King County Executive, Dow Constantine, and the Seattle City Council, and the Mayor himself appear to have an unwavering and ambivalent willingness to follow particular recommendations in addressing, creating, and implementing practical public policies to address homelessness, lack of affordable housing, unemployment/underemployment, and the rise in cost of living Seattlelites are seeing.


Ending Homelessness may be a reality

In 2000, the National Alliance to End Homelessness proposed a 10-year plan that addresses ways to potentially curb homelessness cities nationwide may experience. Based on the blueprint that came about from this proposal, Mayor Ed Murray, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and the City Council for Seattle may want to look at these practical solutions in implementing better public policies:

  • Plan for outcomes. Every jurisdiction should collect data and use it to identify the different groups of people experiencing homelessness: elderly people, youth, families, individuals, and others. The data can then be used to identify the most effective strategy for each subgroup of the homeless population. Jurisdictions should bring those responsible for mainstream as well as homelessness-specific resources to the planning table to plan to draw each group out of homelessness.
  • Close the front door. Communities can prevent homelessness before it starts. By making mainstream poverty programs more accountable for the outcomes of their clients, communities can intervene before vulnerable individuals and families fall into homelessness.
  • Open the back door. At it’s core, homelessness occurs when people are not able to acquire housing then can afford. By developing - and subsidizing when needed - an adequate supply of affordable housing, communities can move people off of the streets and reduce homelessness effectively and permanently.
  • Build the infrastructure. Ending homelessness can be a first step in addressing the systemic problems that lead to crisis poverty, including a shortage of affordable housing, incomes that do not pay for basic needs, and a lack of appropriate services for those that need them. Addressing all of these issues community by community is a necessary step to ending homelessness and poverty.

The question is, are these governing entities willing to forgo and sacrifice their attachment to overspending resources on pet projects that have brought a milestone of tax burden upon the Seattle residents, or, will they face the music, apologize, and begin listening to the very constituents their current policies are pushing out of the area?

Seattle may want to invest in transitional housing programs

One of the best innovative ways to address chronic homelessness is to build in and support transitional housing programs that focus on the following infrastructure:

  1. Address presenting mental health, medical, and substance abuse issues
  2. Lack of employment or underemployment by providing access to resources (especially for veterans and those who have felonies that may be barriers to accessing adequate employment).
  3. Poverty issues that caused homelessness
  4. Referral and case management toward affordable housing.

Building and providing support will move people, as the hope is, from the streets, vehicles, tent's, etc, and into stable housing. This program also provides a means to help someone become stabilized, assist in housing budget and address barriers to sustain housing in the long run.

As it is, many people tend to comment that people need to get into shelters. They fail to understand that shelters charge a nominal fee, require a certain time period to show up, and then essentially request people to leave early in the morning. In addition, most emergency and overnight shelters are not healthy, nor are they potentially safe. They also become overcrowded (especially during the winter months).

Here is the reality of our dilemma

Seattle has, what appears to be, a long standing failed policy in moving toward practical solutions in addressing the following social issues:

  1. Lack of Affordable Housing
  2. Rise in Poverty because of lack of employment
  3. Lack of addressing Mental health and Substance Use Disorders

This is not the fault of the citizens of King County and the City of Seattle. It is majority the fault of the governing forces that appear to be detached from the social issues and the only resolution is to continue to increase the financial burden in order to throw more money at the failed policies they have consistently implement.

We need practical and realistic public policies in place and if Ed Murray, Dow Constantine, or the City Council of Seattle are not willing to step up to the plate and take a more honest approach in addressing these issues; well, then we need to get them out of office and replace them with people who are willing to put into place real public policies that benefit all.

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    • TimRBerman profile imageAUTHOR

      Timothy R Berman 

      20 months ago from Seattle, Washington

      CJ Kelly -

      You make a really good valid point regarding mental health issues, domestic violence, and what appears to be an increase in sex-offenders. One other component is those caught up in substance use disorder, specifically those with chronic opiate substance use disorders. Veterans who are homeless as well.

      It is quite messy over all.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      20 months ago from Auburn, WA

      I've lived here in SKC for almost 20 years and I've seen the homeless problem really explode. Terribly sad. Much of it mental health and domestic violence. But the other issue, at least in my area, is a high volume of sex offenders, either unable to find a place or not wanting to have to check in. Not sure how to solve that one.

      If progressive politicians are in the pocket of big developers, what hope is there?

      Great piece. Sharing everywhere.

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