Snohomish Co. officials: Homeless initiative ‘unacceptable burden’ for region

Nov 15, 2022, 12:05 PM
Homelessness continues to be an issue across Puget Sound. (Melina Mara/Getty Images)
(Melina Mara/Getty Images)

Snohomish County officials said they don’t have space to house homeless people living on public property.

The effort to house those living on state property is part of the state’s Right of Way Initiative. It’s a proposal from Gov. Jay Inslee as part of his overall efforts to combat homelessness.

Inslee said at a recent event, “Because of this initiative that has been so aggressive on this, we have been able to get people in housing in weeks rather than decades.”

Gov. Inslee touts homeless housing successes, lays out new proposals

WSDOT says ‘Rights of Way’ are dangerous for the homeless

The Department of Transportation wrote in a Sept. 30 post the initiative is important because of “the inherent risk these sites pose to anyone on them [Right of Way].

“Vehicles pass these locations at 70 mph … These are not safe places for people to be living.”

The initiative, however, has drawn fire from some government officials, including Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin.

In a statement from Franklin, she said the initiative posed an “unacceptable burden for our city to bear.

“Navigating the expanding homeless crisis is extremely complex and requires open communication, strategic partnerships, and strategy planning,” Franklin wrote.

She said she learned about the Washington Department of Transportation moving homeless people to Everett hotels secondhand. Franklin wrote it was important for the city to “have a seat at the table.”

Snohomish County has 1,000 beds during cold weather periods

The Everett Herald reports that human services director MJ Brell Vujovic said the county has 683 shelter beds year-round, a quarter of which are open through a voucher program.

Cold weather beds, along with two new hotels coming online, will bring the total number of beds up to nearly 1,000.

Still, the mayor’s office said that’s not enough space and that the city needs to coordinate with the appropriate parties on this effort. She said the city needs to be in the loop.

“Such accusations undermine our collective ability to do the work the public demands and unhoused individuals need,” read a statement from the heads of the state departments of Commerce and Transportation as well as the Washington State Patrol.

In a later statement, the mayor wrote, “I will not be issuing a public retraction or apology for my statements, and I reiterate my request to immediately cease the placement of unsheltered individuals in Everett motels until further discussion can take place.”

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Snohomish Co. officials: Homeless initiative ‘unacceptable burden’ for region