When Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued an emergency order last week to open “safe lots” for homeless people living in RVs, he noted that it was not a long-term solution, but merely a temporary fix.
However, he told KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz that there is no long-term solution on the horizon.
“Without a reengaged federal government, without a reengaged state government, there will be no solution to this problem,” Murray said. “It’s estimated that we would need $49 million a year in city money to house the 2,000 people who are homeless on the streets, in addition to what we’re already paying already, which is about $50 million.
“We would have to slash programs throughout the city, layoff hundreds of employees to do that. So unless we have a partner in the federal government and at the state level, it will be impossible for this city, or the city of Bellingham, that just this weekend requested the governor declare a statewide state of emergency on homelessness, unless we have those partners. Cities up down the state and up and down the West Coast will not be able to solve this problem.”
The mayor has taken heat for his plan, including from KIRO Radio hosts Dori Monson and Don O’Neill. O’Neill has been knocking on doors of RVs, calling the residents of the mobile homes “criminals” and not homeless. He’s also been actively attempting to reach the mayor for an interview and encouraging his listeners to call and voice their own frustrations.
“No mayor, no city council member would want to impose a shelter for the homeless that didn’t want it, but we are in the middle of a national crisis and it’s not just Seattle,” Murray told Rantz. “And that’s something I think some of the critics on your station — you’ve been pretty respectful on the subject despite our disagreements — but others need to wake up and look what’s happening on the streets of Portland, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, Olympia, suburban cities in King county and Snohomish County. This isn’t just a crisis in Seattle; it is a national crisis.”
Murray told Rantz that his intention with the plan is to get the individuals living in campers who are not engaged in illegal behavior into a safe place, where the city can then work to transition those individuals into shelter and, ultimately, permanent housing.
“One of the things that’s gone on, and it’s really been unfortunate by some people in the neighborhoods — a small group — is the confusion of criminal behavior on the part of some people in some RVs,” he said. “Confusing that with the RV right next to it that has a woman and a child that she’s trying to keep in our public schools. We have 3,000 school-aged children in the city of Seattle that are homeless in the state of Washington we have 32,000 homeless school-aged children and I think confusing the two is really, really, fairly reprehensible.”