It has long been speculated that Seattle will eventually get a homeless czar to handle the mounting issue in the region. Now, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has hired for such a position — the city’s first director of homelessness, George Scarola.
“Because of the growing scope of work around homelessness, Seattle needs a proven manager to ensure we are achieving our desired outcomes,” Murray said. “I have known George for many years, working alongside him in Seattle and Olympia, and know him as a unifying leader that excels at creating successful results through community engagement.”
The position is slated as “cabinet-level.” Scarola will be paid $137,500 a year by the City of Seattle. He starts on Aug. 24.
In November 2015, Mayor Murray announced a state of emergency over the issue of homelessness in town. Since then, a cluster of city responses have addressed encampments in the area. The city even hired a homeless specialist to analyze the city’s approach — that expert basically said “less talk, more action.” But with George Scarola stepping in as the homeless czar, it is hoped that a more coordinated effort will take place. The idea is to have one person manage the efforts across multiple departments.
According to the mayor’s office:
Scarola will be responsible for leading the city’s homelessness efforts across departments, providing oversight and evaluation of outcomes, strategic guidance, and leading community engagement.
To make it official, Murray signed an executive order Tuesday establishing the position. The order states that the director of homelessness will report to the mayor’s director of operations, and will essentially engage in a “systematic reform of the city’s response to homelessness.” The goal of the director is to improve the “overall quality, responsiveness, and success at serving people experiencing homelessness and the greater community.
Scarola has a history of working among educational and Democratic circles in Washington. Sacarola worked as the legislative director for the League of Education Voters. A 2012 article in Seattle Met referred to George Scarola as a lobbyist for the league. The mayor’s office notes that he was integral to motivating Seattle voters to approve educational bonds in the ’90s.
He was previously was top aide to Democratic State Representative Frank Chopp in 2000. Then he helped the Washington House Democratic Campaign in 2002 to obtain a majority in the house.
In the 1990s, Scarola was executive director of the Sand Point Community Housing Project that turned buildings on the Sand Point Naval Air Station into shelters for youth, adults and families.