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Seattle Mayor: City will be more accountable with homeless funding

Mayor Ed Murray says the city will measure how effective its homeless programs are moving forward. (MyNorthwest)

The proposal to raise $275 million for homeless funding in Seattle over the course of five years is no small ask.

Related: Seattle hiring to clean up after the homeless

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wants the owner of the median-priced home to pay another $13 per month to improve upon the city’s lack of addiction treatment and increase the number of beds it can offer those in need.

The question on taxpayers’ minds should be: what will be the return on investment?

“Really good question,” Murray told KIRO Radio’s Jason and Burns.

For years, the city and King County have pumped millions into combating its homeless crisis, but the problem only seems to grow.

The county’s 10-year-plan to cut homelessness in half by 2015 failed — the number of people living unsheltered increased from 3,772 in 2015 to 4,505 in 2016, according to the One Night Count. There are more than 10,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given day in the county.

In the city, nearly 3,000 people were found to be unsheltered during the One Night Count last year. The results of this year’s count in January have been delayed until May while people with All Home work to get the most accurate number possible.

Murray says he and city staffers plan to follow recommendations made by consultants over the years. That includes feedback from Barbara Poppe, a nationally recognized expert on homelessness, who told the city it needs to reduce the number of unsheltered homeless people and increase the “throughput” to stable housing. Another consulting firm found that the city has, historically, been slow in its homeless response, including helping people find housing. The city has also been told that short-term housing assistance such as rental subsidies could lead to a better outcome, as opposed to sending people to temporary shelters.

Murray says the city needs to fund homeless programs based on outcomes — measurable outcomes — that get people into stable housing.

“The city and county haven’t done that,” he said. “We are now rebidding every single contract. It’s been 10 years since those contracts have been rebid. ”

Essentially, the city, Murray hopes, will fund programs based on their effectiveness.

“We’re going to fund based on outcomes,” he said. “Not just fund human service agencies because they say they do homelessness.”

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