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Sawant calls to end Navigation Team funding in fight against sweeps

Seattle police officers Wes Phillips, left, and Tori Newborn talk with Corvin Dobschutz as part of Seattle’s Navigation Team. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

A proposal from Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant would cut all of the funding devoted to the city’s Navigation Team, who acts as the outreach and response unit for Seattle’s homeless population.

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Sawant has long been critical of the Navigation Team’s role in sweeping homeless encampments, something she views as an inhumane solution to a continuing crisis across the city. That said, she also recently voiced support for the other services provided by the Nav Team.

“The humane aspects of the services need to be retained, but the bulk of the money that is used on the sweeps … is a complete waste of money,” Sawant told KIRO Radio. “We need this to end — absolutely to end immediately.”

Her proposed line item to the city’s budget would cut the Nav Team’s $8.38 million in funding, and redirect that money to other homeless services.

There are also a pair of competing proposals from other councilmembers. District 5’s Debora Juarez’s calls for an additional $273,000 to add two new full-time positions to the Navigation Team, while District 1’s Lisa Herbold is pushing for conditional funding based on hitting quarterly performance metrics.

In the past, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda attempted to direct funding away from the Nav Team, as part of a 2018 proposal that would have taken $724,000 out of its budget over two years.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, though, has long been a proponent of the team, citing a need to “continue to invest in the strategies we know have an impact.”

As recently as May, Durkan pushed to add four additional members to the Navigation Team to allow it to function seven days a week. The team features 38 total members, 16 more than when Durkan took office in 2017.

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The city also hired three new members of the Navigation Team back in April, as part of a $244,000 expansion initiative.

Councilmembers will discuss their competing proposals during Thursday’s budget meetings.

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