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‘This is not Free-attle;’ Mayor Murray outlines $275M levy for homelessness

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced how the city would use the millions raised from a proposed property-tax levy on Wednesday. (City of Seattle)

The money raised from a property-tax levy proposed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray would provide rental subsidies to get people off the streets, Murray announced Wednesday.

The $275 million raised over five years would also be used to expand shelters and treatment services as well as pump more resources into the newly created navigation team — a group of outreach workers and police officers dedicated to the city’s homeless issue.

The mayor will try to qualify the levy for the August ballot as a citizens’ initiative, The Seattle Times reports. In order to qualify for the ballot, 20,638 signature would be needed.

“I know there won’t be agreement on all sides, but business as usual has not worked,” Murray said.

During his State of the City address in February, Murray said he wants to increase property taxes this year to generate more money for the city’s homelessness crisis.

“My hope is that this plan will put the squeeze on the problem,” he said on Wednesday.

As he announced his plans for the additional funding raised through property taxes, Murray said, again, that the help he’s been seeking from the federal government isn’t coming.

“It has become clear to me since the presidential election that we are on our own,” he said.

Related: Seattle mayor wants property tax increase to raise more money for homelessness

Murray said he formed an advisory group for how to raise $55 million. The city currently spends more than $8 million a year on emergency shelters, more than $4 million a year on transitional housing and more than $9 million a year on permanent supportive housing.

Last week, the city released the results of a $100,000 survey of about 1,000 homeless people, and officials with the city’s Human Services Department touted the importance of more affordable housing and more low-barrier shelters.

Related: Over half of homeless admit to using drugs, alcohol

Murray referred to the survey in his news conference on Wednesday, saying that it “busted many of myths” that we have about the homeless. He pointed out that 40 percent are employed, 20 percent said housing affordability is the main reason they’re homeless, 30 percent are under 30 (years old), 35 percent are suffering from a substance abuse disorder, and 23 percent come from our foster care system, 14 percent are veterans, and 25.5 percent are African Americans, according to the survey.

“We also learned that this is not Freeattle,” Murray said. “70 percent of the people who are homeless lived in this area. They worked and they are our neighbors.”

Murray also said that most — or 90 percent of those surveyed — want services and housing.

Related: Survey says 30% of homeless people in Seattle can pay rent

KIRO 7 News is tracking community-generated reports of sanctioned and unauthorized camps to help illustrate the size and scope of this crisis. Seattle leaders do not keep a public map of homeless camps.

The city’s sanctioned homeless camps are a temporary fix to Seattle’s homeless crisis, according to the mayor’s office.

Murray’s long-term solution, “Pathways Home,” involves expanding 24-hour shelter services and refocusing the city’s homeless solutions to an individual-based approach. The program is expected to take a couple of years to set up.

Meanwhile, the city has implemented a “bridging the gap” program. Seattle only has a handful of sanctioned homeless camps under this program. The rest of the camps that pop up across the city are unauthorized.

The city of Seattle defines a camp as three or more tents.

More than 2,000 people are unsheltered in Seattle on any given night, according to the latest homeless count by volunteers.

If you have a question about a camp around your home, you can contact the city of Seattle by calling 206-684-2489 or submitting a form online here.

KIRO 7 contributed to this story

About the Author

Kipp Robertson

Kipp joined the MyNorthwest.com team in February 2015. He's worked as a reporter in the greater Seattle area since graduating from Western Washington University in 2010. Email Kipp at krobertson@mynorthwest.com

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