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Three years later, Seattle’s homeless emergency persists


Three years ago on Nov. 2, Seattle and King County declared a homeless emergency. Today, the homeless problem persists with few permanent solutions in sight.

RELATED: Seattle City Council debates erecting giant tents for the homeless

In 2015, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine signed proclamations of emergency, citing the 66 homeless people who had died in the streets in that year at the time.

“Emergency declarations are associated with natural disasters, but the persistent and growing phenomenon of homelessness—here and nationwide—is a human-made crisis just as devastating to thousands as a flood or fire,” said Executive Constantine.

It’s now been three years, and the homeless crisis in both Seattle and greater King County has yet to see significant improvement.

“Here we are in one of the most prosperous cities and we don’t yet have enough housing or shelter to care for those outside,” City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said on Friday.

That latest data on homelessness published in January 2018 claimed that Seattle and King County’s homeless population sits just over 12,000, a four percent increase over 2017. The portion of homeless who are unsheltered also increased from 2017, from 47 percent to 52 percent in 2018.

Meanwhile, reports of homeless people attacking tourists, harassing local businesses, and squatting on private property are popping up regularly.

The question on the mind of many locals remains, what is being done to fix this?

A spokesperson for Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office points to $100 million invested in affordable housing in 2018, as well as an additional $200 million leveraged.

“This was the largest one-year investment in affordable housing in the history of Seattle,” Mayor’s Office spokesperson Kamaria Hightower told KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott.

“The City is developing a strong network of supports that both prevent families from entering homelessness and is successful transitioning individuals experiencing homelessness to stable housing,” Hightower added.

A recent study published by Seattle’s Human Services Department claimed that the city has seen a 35 percent increase from the first six months of 2017 in homeless households exiting to permanent housing.

Meanwhile, the Seattle City Council is accepting proposals from the public concerning how they would tackle the city’s homeless crisis.

The hope from here is in another three years, the homeless emergency declared in 2015 will finally come to an end.

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