What is stifling solutions to the region’s homelessness crisis

Jan 5, 2018, 1:49 PM
homeless hygiene, outreach, xbox, All Home, homelessness...
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

All Home was formed to connect King County’s governments, non-profits, and other organizations tackling the homelessness crisis. But after four years leading All Home, Mark Putnam argues the region still lacks the proper authority to truly address the problem.

RELATED: Seattle has “culture block” when it comes to solving homelessness

“One of the challenges with the way we are set up is that there are different entities responsible for different parts of the response around homelessness,” Putnam told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. “From the City of Seattle to King County, to each of the 39 cities in our region to school districts – there isn’t a centralized entity working on homelessness that also has the authority over funding and implementing strategy.”

“And the homeless crisis is significant enough to warrant that … we have accountability in a lot of different places and I’d like to see it consolidated,” he said.

Putnam is now stepping down as the director of All Home. His new job will be as the executive director of Accelerator YMCA — a housing program for homeless young adults.

Lessons from All Home

Putnam says that during his four years with All Home, great progress has been made on the homelessness problem. But that progress is stifled by a few issues, such as the lack of centralized response. For that, all of King County’s 163 governments would have to hand over control to a single, leading entity like Seattle or the county.

But there are other factors that remain out of grasp, such as the chronic under-funding of mental and medical care.

“I believe that what’s really needed around homelessness is more housing,” Putnam said. “We have a gap of housing with our population growth and high housing costs. Secondly, in order to implement a broad strategy like that – to add that much more housing for people experiencing homelessness – we need consolidation of oversight. What I’ve pushed for … is still being considered – some consolidation among the City of Seattle and King County in particular and their homeless services.”

RELATED: Lessons learned from Seattle’s homeless report

Putnam said he has seen housing change over the years. Affordable housing used to simply be older housing that people with more money didn’t live in. Today, however, most housing is occupied by people earning higher incomes. It leaves no room for people earning less.

He wants more development to fix this, but he doesn’t want it at the expense of existing affordable housing.

“What we have is a cycle of redevelopment that is leading us to having less available apartments for people,” Putnam said. “We need to increase density in Seattle, but we also need it out in the county.”

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What is stifling solutions to the region’s homelessness crisis