It has been nearly two months since Seattle debuted its Navigation Team aimed at moving people off of the streets and into services for homeless people. On Monday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray touted the team as an initial success.
“They came across a couple recently; a woman was five months pregnant,” Murray told KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don Show. “Both her and her husband have an addiction problem. They wanted to go home to the Midwest. We connected them with social services back there and helped them get back.”
That’s just one encounter. Murray said that the Navigation Team has plenty of other examples. The team is a mixture of officials with varied outreach methods. In its short existence, the Navigation Team has increased outreach success by tenfold, according to the mayor.
“(It) is police officers with de-escalation training, an outreach worker who is usually a former homeless person, and usually a mental-health person,” Murray said. “We are going one-by-one, connecting them with services. This new approach seems to be getting a higher number of people into services. Generally, the history of this county has been about 5 percent say ‘yes.’ We are at about 50 percent saying ‘yes.’”
“Yes” means accepting referrals to addiction treatment, mental health services, shelter or permanent housing. Alongside this effort, the city is partnering with the State of Washington, which is responsible for the areas around freeways. The greenbelts around I-5 through Seattle have been popular sites for homeless campers in recent years.
“Instead of just sweeping people out, we go in offering services, connect them with services, and then when they move out, (we) go in and try to maintain that area and keep it clean,” Murray said.
The city’s approaches to the homeless crisis appear to be moving forward nearly a year and a half after Murray declared a state of emergency — in Nov. 2015. Still, the mayor, alongside King County Dow Constantine, is asking for more money to fund homeless programs.
The proposed county-wide tax would allow Seattle and King County to raise, “millions more,” Murray said in a news conference on Monday.
However, the recent effort is much different than in the past, the mayor argued. It’s a “mixture of things,” he said.
“It’s coordinated,” Murray said. “And quite honestly, the approach has never been coordinated before.”