Seattle weighs differing approaches to homeless crisis in wake of pandemic

Apr 7, 2021, 3:14 PM | Updated: Apr 8, 2021, 7:31 am
Seattle homelessness, homeless authority CEO...
A homeless camp in South Lake Union. (Jason Rantz, KTTH)
(Jason Rantz, KTTH)

The new CEO of the King County Regional Homeless Authority, Marc Dones, has said that they don’t believe in large congregate shelters, and that they think this is a problem that needs to be solved 10 or 15 people at a time. There appears to be a different approach applied by the Compassion Seattle initiative, which seeks to force the city to fund housing for the homeless and clear encampments out of city parks, sidewalks, streets, and all other public areas.

Is there a clash between the two approaches? Seattle Times reporter Scott Greenstone joined the Gee and Ursula Show to discuss.

“Compassion Seattle is focused on what is happening on the streets, … kind of saying, ‘Let’s build new housing.’ But it doesn’t really provide funding for that, it doesn’t say, ‘Let’s have new taxes or anything like that.’ It’s basically saying, ‘Let’s build the spaces so we can get folks off the streets and then let’s get folks off the streets. And if we have to make them, we got to make them,'” he said.

Greenstone says the approaches are not entirely separate, but that Dones does not necessarily control enforcement.

“And Marc Dones — who is going to be running the regional homelessness authority — they’re focused more on what happens when we get those folks off the streets. Marc is not necessarily going to have much in the way of control over enforcement — that’s up to cities. Cities get to say how they want to enforce or if they want to pass laws against homelessness. So we’ve got two different aspects here,” Greenstone said.

Downtown Seattle Association CEO: City must prioritize money around homelessness

“Obviously, they’re not separate,” Greenstone continued. “If I have a record, and I owe a lot of money to the court because I’ve been fined again and again for camping outside, it’s going to be a lot harder for me to get off the street. So the two things are connected, but they’re kind of separate pieces of the issue.”

With a few higher profile exceptions, he says sweeps have mostly halted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The city has almost completely stopped removing homeless camps,” he pointed out. “They’re still doing a few, and there’s been a few high-profile ones — I think we probably all remember Cal Anderson and the multiple big police actions that happened there — but for the most part, they stopped. I think if you drive through Seattle, you can kind of tell.”

Unlikely alliance hopes to force Seattle to take compassionate action on homelessness

While sweeps appear to have stopped, Greenstone says the fight against homelessness has generally slowed down as a result of COVID.

“Folks are staying in the same place for a lot longer, pitching tents and being able to stay there. I’ve talked to a lot of folks who live in RVs. They haven’t had to move their RVs every 72 hours like they used to, … but the problem is that everything has kind of stopped, and shelters have gotten a lot smaller because you can’t have 100 people sleeping in a room six inches from each other,” he said.

“You’ve got to empty that room at least halfway out, maybe more — where are you going to send all those people? A lot of them would rather take their chances on the street or out in a tent where they’re not scared of getting COVID.”

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

east precinct, seattle police reform...
Gee and Ursula Show

Beyond the defund debate: Will new SPD budget deliver on promise of reform?

Did Seattle City Council's recently passed 2022 budget do enough to address calls for police reform dating back to the summer of 2020?
6 days ago
Kyle Rittenhouse...
Gee and Ursula Show

‘It hurts’: KIRO Radio hosts react in wake of Kyle Rittenhouse verdict

KIRO Radio's Gee Scott, Aaron Mason, and Andrew Lanier provide their thoughts following the Friday acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse.
10 days ago
Holiday travel...
Gee and Ursula Show

As pandemic still looms in Washington, ‘your level of concern is up to you’ for holiday travel

Washington health officials are urging caution for those who plan to travel for the holidays. But how concerned should people be?
11 days ago
High speed rail...
Gee and Ursula Show

Is a high speed rail line through Washington actually realistic, or is it a pipe dream?

Can Washington finally achieve its years-long dream of building a multi-state high speed rail line? So far, the answer remains unclear.
12 days ago
nonprofit wages...
Gee and Ursula Show

Rising wages: Seattle-wide trend, or nonprofit exclusive?

A local nonprofit has pledged to raise the wages of their employees by as much as $20,000, a "trend" Seattle has seen before.
13 days ago
Doug Ericksen, COVID treatment...
Gee and Ursula Show

Gee & Ursula: Should Washington lawmaker ask colleagues for COVID treatment in El Salvador?

Should state Sen. Doug Ericksen be able to leverage his power as a state lawmaker to receive treatment for COVID-19 while in El Salvador?
14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Seattle weighs differing approaches to homeless crisis in wake of pandemic