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Seattle has no idea how it will pay for homeless plan

Seven out of nine Seattle City Councilmembers are up for reelection in 2019 (AP)

If the City of Seattle has a long-term plan to pay for the promised affordable housing and shelter beds, city staff may have failed to share the plan with the Seattle City Council. In a recent interview with the Seattle Channel, both Sally Bagshaw and Teresa Mosqueda ignored questions on where funding would come from to keep the plan alive.

Brian Callanan asked the council members about the plan to increase shelter capacity by 25 percent over the coming months. He noted that, in the short term, it will be paid for by revenues generated from the city selling some property. That revenue is $6.3 million. But how do you sustain the funding, Callanan asked, noting the revenue from property sales is a one-time thing.

Bagshaw had no answer. In fact, she didn’t even try to answer the question.

“First we need to look at what the need is…” she said.

Timeline: Understanding Seattle’s homeless issues

We already know the need. The mayor and council say it’s more affordable housing and shelter beds. This, of course, won’t solve homelessness because it doesn’t address the root causes of the problem. But it’s the best answer city leaders have. So, with that being their answer, how do you pay for the increase in housing and shelter beds when you’re relying on a one-time influx of cash?

Bagshaw repeatedly said that “we have a plan,” yet she never articulated how they’d pay for the plan. That means, no matter what she says, they don’t actually have a plan. They have a list of things they say the city needs, but not a way to pay for it. That’s the early stages of a plan. That’s not an actual plan.

Mosqueda answered in a similarly maddening way. She acknowledges that the $6.3 million “…is just a drop in the bucket.” Then argues we need to “…dramatically ramp up the number of dollars we’re investing into housing and shelters.”

What’s missing? Again: a plan to pay for the investments. They keep telling us what we need, without telling us how we’ll get it. But they do say, over and over again, that we need some kind of help in paying for it, preferring funding comes from the state and federal government.

“We can’t tackle this head-on by ourselves…” Mosqueda said before revealing that “…Seattle has 75 percent of the homeless population living within our city…”

If the majority of the homeless population lives in Seattle, you’ll have a tough time arguing taxpayers in Tacoma, Yakima, Everett, and Spokane should give money to an unaccountable group of progressive lawmakers pushing policies that don’t stem the tide of homelessness.

A plan that misses the ‘why’

Part of the reason we’re not seeing the results we need is that we’re being lead by activists informed by ideology, not policies that work. Their so-called plan doesn’t address why people are homeless to begin with. And they end up ignoring the advice of people on the ground who actually work with the homeless for a living.

We have people living on the streets due to a variety of factors. As much as this council wants to pretend we’re all one missed paycheck away from being on the streets, that’s not the reality of the situation for a large percentage of people that currently are. Many are there due to an untreated addiction or a mental illness. You can get a heroin addict a home or a shelter bed, but that doesn’t treat the underlying issue responsible for why they’re on the streets to begin with. So, even if the council figures out where to find the permanent funding for these ideas, it’ll be money wasted.

When you go to the doctor with recurring headaches, your doctor doesn’t just give you Advil and send you on your way. They find out why you’re getting the headaches and then treat the underlying issue. The council ignores that common-sense approach when it comes to the homeless, by giving someone a bed when they need, in many cases, health care.

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