Harrell: Progress will be lost if homelessness funding ‘is not renewed’
Mayor Bruce Harrell is asking the City Council for $5 million more in funding to combat homelessness in Seattle.
The money would help go towards homeless outreach teams, which would be a part of Seattle’s Unified Care Team. The team would work to provide outreach for those living on the streets to move them into temporary housing.
“We want those relationships in place, and it’s pretty hard for these teams to go to West Seattle one day and Ballard the next and then Lake City,” Harrell said.
City workers say the Unified Care Team would also be expanded to include certain specialists, like those with expertise in things like RV removal and drug dependency.
“They’re going to be talking to businesses, partnering with businesses, picking up trash, talking to folks who are unhoused, making referrals to shelter,” said Tiffany Washington, deputy mayor of housing and homelessness.
Harrell’s office says there are currently more than 800 encampments spread throughout the city.
Since the Unified Care Team was set up in January, city officials say it has handled an average of 1,000 calls per week.
From the total 2023 budget proposal of $1.6 billion, $38 million is allocated for the city’s homelessness response – an increase of $5 million in new investments since last year.
He says conditions are improving around the city’s parks and sidewalks, but more money is needed from the city to make up for one-time funds granted last year by the American Rescue Plan.
The mayor says the city needs to cover the difference in funding from what was lost at the end of the rescue plan– $9.6 million plus new investments.
Mayor Harrell is warning that if portions of his 2023 budget are not approved, the city may undo the progress it’s making on homelessness.
“If the funding is not renewed that we have been operating on in the past and is not made ongoing, the level of service that we’re demonstrating will lapse. The progress we’re making in the city building our One Seattle will lapse. And we want to be open and transparent about that.” Harrell said at the press conference.
The City Council will choose whether to adopt the mayor’s proposals into the budget on Nov. 21.
Sam Campbell contributed to this report.