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Seattle expands homeless Navigation Team, creates new position

Seattle's Navigation Team when it formed in February 2017. (City of Seattle)

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has created a new position to align the city’s homelessness response while also growing the city’s Navigation Team.

“As we work as a region to create a more consolidated system that has a governance structure, with authority and resources to address our homelessness crisis, our city is continuously working to create a more accountable and effective response to our region’s crisis,” Durkan said. “With the new leadership additions at the Human Services Department, we’re better aligning our resources and staffing related to homelessness to reflect this critical priority and to more efficiently address homelessness.”

RELATED: Seattle releases progress report on homeless response

The mayor is creating the position of Deputy Director of Homelessness. The city’s division director of homelessness strategy and investments, Tiffany Washington, is being placed in the new deputy role. Washington will “better align the city’s homelessness response,” according to the mayor’s office.

Durkan is also taking $500,000 in investments from King County and Governor Jay Inlsee to grow the city’s Navigation Team to 30 people, hopefully increasing its reach to people on the street. Fred Podesta, who heads up the city’s Finance and Administration Department, is being placed in charge of the Navigation Team as it expands its scope.

“Every night, thousands of our neighbors sleep outside without shelter, in some of the most inhumane and dangerous conditions you can imagine, and our city relies on our Navigation Team to connect many of these individuals with services,” Durkan said. “After two terms at the helm of FAS, Fred Podesta has graciously agreed to lead the Navigation Team. Since the launch of the Navigation Team, Fred has played a critical role in helping the city contact thousands of individuals living in tents and on our streets, and his leadership will be invaluable as we expand our work to help compassionately move more people into safer places and permanent homes.”

The team’s expanded role will now include organizing trash clean up around encampments and RVs. Since May 2018, the city has organized a trash clean up program that has removed 107,020 pounds of trash from around the encampments. That effort is being linked up to the team.

The Navigation Team was started in February 2017. The group includes specially trained police officers and outreach workers who engage unsheltered people living in tents in unsanctioned areas of Seattle. The goal is to get these people services and move them into an authorized shelter, tiny house village, etc. When the Navigation Team started, it had a 50 percent success rate. Since then, it has made 7,300 contacts with homeless individuals.

The team is also involved in sweeping homeless encampments. It will contact campers first, multiple times before a camp is ordered to be removed from an unauthorized location. For example, the team helped clear out a camp near I-90 in June. Seattle officially acknowledges about 400 homeless encampments throughout the city.

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