GEE AND URSULA

Former Seattle mayor: Rise in homeless camps ‘a matter of fixing the shelter system’

Oct 27, 2020, 2:32 PM | Updated: 3:47 pm

Seattle homelessness, homeless authority CEO...

A homeless camp in South Lake Union. (Jason Rantz, KTTH)

(Jason Rantz, KTTH)

As Seattle’s homeless crisis continues, a group of city businesses and neighborhood groups has issued a letter to local leaders, asking that they deal with the growing number of encampments. Former Mayor Greg Nickels stopped by KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show to talk about what the city needs to do to tackle that problem amid the ongoing pandemic.

Researchers see ‘compelling’ results from bringing homeless into hotels

The letter called on leaders to clear encampments out of parks in the name of public safety, citing the presence of garbage, drug-use, and unsafe conditions for neighborhood residents. For Nickels, that’s one piece of the puzzle, but helping the city’s homeless also goes far beyond that as well.

“We need to deal with those underlying issues, and we need to deal with it in a humane setting,” he said.

To that end, he suggests providing subsidized affordable housing as a means to deal with those underlying issues. That also means ensuring that Seattle has a robust shelter system with consistently available space and livable conditions.

“It’s a matter of fixing the shelter system, because clearly it isn’t working for many people as they would rather be outdoors,” Nickels pointed out.

In February, Seattle councilmembers grilled leaders from the Navigation Team over their clearance of homeless encampments, pointing to low rates of accepted offers of shelter (around 24 percent according to data presented by the Human Services Department).

Seattle council slams Navigation Team on homeless camp sweeps

At the time, councilmembers cited the fact that there were roughly 12 available shelter beds on average a night, making it difficult to present a “meaningful offer of shelter” when an encampment is cleared by outreach workers.

The council voted to effectively end the Navigation Team in early August, before funding for a scaled-down version was approved this week, primarily to manage outreach to encampments for the remainder of 2020.

A 2021 budget proposal from current Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan would also add 425 short-term shelter beds, in hopes of giving those moved out of camps somewhere to land. That measure has yet to be approved, but will soon be part of a larger debate over next year’s budget between the mayor’s office and city council.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Gee and Ursula Show

Gee and Ursula

newcastle mayor...

Frank Sumrall

Gee Scott: Newcastle mayor’s comments ‘are awful, what he represents is awful’

Newcastle Mayor Robert Clark fired off a plethora of controversial comments about the local LGBTQ+ community and reparations during a city council meeting.

1 day ago

Image: Adrian Diaz addresses the press at a news conference on Wednesday, May 29, 2024 after Seattl...

Ursula Reutin

Ursula: Being gay has no bearing on allegations against former SPD Chief Diaz

In his first interview since he stepped down as the city's top cop, former SPD Chief Adrian Diaz publicly came out as gay.

3 days ago

rahr police...

Frank Sumrall

Interim SPD Chief Rahr on police-city relations: ‘Can we please hit the reset button?’

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell appointed Sue Rahr as the city's interim police chief after removing Adrian Diaz from the role due to accumulating allegations.

8 days ago

Image: Former Congressman Dave Reichert is running in 2024 to be Washington's governor....

Frank Sumrall

Reichert: Ferguson trying to ‘undermine my reputation’ as honest public servant

"That question seems to be almost comical," gubernatorial candidate Reichert said. "No. 1, why does it matter who I'm going to vote for?"

14 days ago

zebra...

Frank Sumrall

KIRO exclusive: Owner of recovered zebra describes escape, getting kangaroos

Shug was one of four zebras being taken back to their home at a farm in Anaconda, Montana, operated by owner Kristine Keltgen.

2 months ago

Photo: Seattle Mayor Harrell has decided to conduct an outside investigation of SPD....

Ursula Reutin

Ursula: The outside investigation of SPD can’t come soon enough

An outside investigation of SPD is desperately needed to address what many within the department have described as a "good ol' boys" culture.

2 months ago

Former Seattle mayor: Rise in homeless camps ‘a matter of fixing the shelter system’