Councilmember Morales challenges mayor’s approach to homelessness, wants more permanent housing

Aug 3, 2022, 6:09 PM | Updated: Aug 4, 2022, 8:11 am
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)...
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

As encampment sweeps continue to increase throughout the summer in King County, Councilmember Tammy Morales believes the executive office is failing the homeless by not providing permanent shelter.

“What we saw today was a continued failure of our city response to addressing the root cause of homelessness,” said Morales. “People still don’t have housing and we haven’t really solved the problem. We’ve only moved it around the city.”

Morales stated the city has been moving the homeless from one neighborhood to another for years and it only creates a nuisance for neighbors, while shelters are just a one-night solution.

Morales’ solution? Give those without homes an affordable place to live long-term.

“The solution is permanent affordable housing,” Morales said. “Increased workforce housing and places that people can afford. Two, three bedroom apartments that people can afford. We are not building homes fast enough, we don’t have access to mental health services. The shelter system is not a solution.”

King County struggling to find solutions to keep homeless off the streets permanently

The homeless crisis is a major focus of Morales as she breaks down her solution into four parts:

  1. Seattle needs more street outreach
  2. There needs to be better access to the JustCARE Program
  3.  Counties need to strive to work together with Seattle to solve homelessness
  4. Council needs the mayor’s support.

The King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) and the city of Seattle recently finalized a deal to keep JustCARE, a shelter and outreach program created during the pandemic, afloat. The organization helps buy hotel rooms for people to go to when high-need individuals or families need acute care while transitioning.

So far, JustCARE has moved 404 people living in 14 encampments throughout Seattle into its hotel shelter program with the goal of connecting them to multiple services before moving into permanent housing.

“The previous mayor had some objection to some of the things the council was trying to do. I am hopeful that this mayor is more receptive [to the council’s plans], and I think he is,” Morales said.

However, Morales does not support the mayor’s efforts to keep moving encampments from one street to the other.

“You can see on the Homelessness Action Plan that the vast majority of city investments are going toward housing, services, and KCRHA, who is the independent agency responsible for developing, communicating, and executing an evidence-based strategy to address homelessness in Seattle,” said the mayor’s spokesperson Jamie Housen. “About 5.7% of the city’s homelessness-related spending is going toward encampment removals.”

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Councilmember Morales challenges mayor’s approach to homelessness, wants more permanent housing