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Seattle council candidate Phil Tavel on facing the homelessness crisis

AP

Seattle’s homelessness crisis is among the top issues for council candidate Phil Tavel, who argues that city leaders have approached the problem incorrectly; all while the crisis has grown.

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“There’s way too much talk about it being a crisis of affordability and that we shouldn’t be saying it’s a mental health issue or a substance abuse issue,” Tavel told the Saul Spady Show on KTTH. “When, to be honest, it’s a multitude of factors that come together that are being unaddressed properly.”

Tavel is running for District 1, covering West Seattle. It is currently represented by Lisa Herbold who is aiming for re-election. There are three others also vying for the position.

Tavel says there are solutions and innovative ideas out there that Seattle’s leaders are ignoring in favor of leaving people on the street. One such idea — mentioned by Saul — has been established in Austin, Texas, where “farms” are used for people experiencing homelessness. This diverts homelessness from highly-used areas (like South Lake Union), and gets people into programs toward self-sufficiency, as well as mental health and addiction services.

It’s an idea that Tavel says he can “absolutely” get behind.

“I have a friend down in Southern Oregon, in Jacksonville, who used to work on a project there — a local community farm. It specifically worked with families where you had parents with substance abuse issues, maybe they also had legal trouble,” he said. “You would have a stewardship thing with the outdoors,  you would learn some farming, especially urban farming, and get food to people who need it, and get hooked up with a trade at the same time.”

“That is the type of community-based response that I think we need,” Tavel added. “….one of the things you got to do is give people something to have pride in, something to have hope with. A farm project like that is something that is holistic.”

There is a line, he says. And that line is between who is, and who is not, considered a victim. Tavel argues that people experiencing homelessness may be victims of a failing city, and the system’s failure to act. But that doesn’t not mean a person can get away with crime.

“If you are the victim of a crime — if someone assaults you, if someone steals from you, if someone trespasses on your property, you are the legitimate victim,” he says.

Transportation

It wasn’t just the homelessness crisis that Tavel addressed on the Saul Spady Show. He also discussed transportation, and mentioned that he supports a shareable-scooter program — something that is currently not available in Seattle. The city does have a bikeshare system, however.

“I like the idea of a scooter system,” Tavel said. “I’ve seen it work in other cities. I do think West Seattle is perfect for it. We are crazy hilly. We got the Alki Beach area. Imagine if you can park in some other part of West Seattle and take a scooter down to Alki Beach. You don’t have as many parking issues and it’s just easier and fun to get around.”

“I like that as a project we can work toward, after we clean up some of the other things,” he said.

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