Gov. Inslee: Homelessness is complex, needs help from legislature

Jan 18, 2023, 12:39 PM | Updated: 6:34 pm

Gov. Jay Inslee continued to press his message of addressing the “homelessness” issue when talking on KIRO Newsradio with Brandi Kruse.

“I have a responsibility to help alleviate the problem,” the governor said. “But we are part of a national trend. COVID-19 has exacerbated many of our problems.”

Housing, gun violence top Gov. Inslee’s 2023 agenda

Kruse said the governor has been in office for 11 years, and the problem has done nothing but grow.

“We have taken action and put between $30-50 million into homelessness,” Inslee said. “We need to move them into housing. We don’t want to play ‘wack a mole’ and just move people around. It’s not going to get better until we do multiple things.”

Inslee said the Legislature needs to step up and approve our initiatives.

“It wasn’t helpful when I had a Legislature under Republican control,” Inslee said. “We have made increasing investments, but that level of investments was not equal to the task. We have to have more housing. People are moving here in droves. We don’t have enough housing. This is not an easy task to fix. It’s complicated. There’s a lot of argument about the direction to go.”

In his 2023 state-of-the-state address, the governor proposed raising the state debt limit and earmarking a $4 billion referendum for housing.

The governor is hoping the referendum will speed up the construction of thousands of new units. He said they will include shelters, supportive housing, and affordable housing.

Inslee said the state needs 81,000 housing units, and it’s growing every day.

“There are multiple issues that contribute to the homelessness problem. You could argue about mental health. You could argue addiction is part of the problem. This issue is not what the fundamental is. We need to address all of it,” Inslee said.

Kruse said the cause of homelessness is drugs. Her father was homeless, she said in the interview, and by building more housing, he just would have died in a different place, but he still died of addiction.

“We need to major investment in behavioral health. We need more people to address mental health. We need more counselors in our schools,” Kruse said.

Kruse asked if the state would re-hire workers who were fired under the vaccine mandate.

“Sure, as long as they follow the rules,” the governor said. “What makes sense is for people to get this booster. We have to reach an agreement with our state employees.”

Kruse claimed that some Democrats are worried about retribution from the government if they support limiting the power of the governor’s office, referencing a bill limiting emergency powers proposed in this legislative session.

“I haven’t challenged anyone to a fight so far. I’m proud that our state saved 19,000 people with our vaccine initiatives,” Inslee said.

Inslee said he has not made a decision on running for a fourth term.

Brandi Kruse is the interim host of midday on KIRO Newsradio

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Gov. Inslee: Homelessness is complex, needs help from legislature