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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 16, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 03
Mayor previews new homeless plans
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Mayor previews new homeless plans

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray previewed new plans to cope with the growing number of homeless people in Seattle in a January 14 announcement.

Among the mayor's proposals is a new ordinance permitting up to three homeless camps, each serving up to 100 people. Murray said he would transmit a draft of the legislation to the City Council within days of the announcement.

'Permitted encampments are not, in my view, a long-term strategy to end homelessness, but organized encampments have less impact on our neighborhoods and provide a safer environment than what we see on our streets today,' said Murray.

Under the mayor's proposal, the new camps must be located within a half-mile of a transit stop and more than one mile from each other.

Each site would be required to move every 12 months. Unlike the existing encampment ordinance, sponsorship by a religious organization would not be required.

New camps would be required to provide residents access to city social services to help people manage what the mayor's statement calls 'their challenges,' and to transition from the camp to more permanent housing.

The mayor's proposal would require community outreach prior to applying for a camp permit, and the formation of a Community Advisory Committee in the neighborhood of the encampment.

The Seattle Department of Human Services will craft a toolkit that social service organizations can use to develop a new shelter or encampment site.

The social service agencies that operate the new camps would also participate in the same data collection tools as the City's current homeless shelters. Client information would remain private, but would be monitored by City officials to improve service delivery.

'I'm pleased that the Mayor will be reintroducing a new version of the bill I proposed last year to allow for longer term temporary encampments,' said Councilmember Nick Licata.

'This is not the solution to homelessness, but we simply can't wait to solve homelessness. The City has a responsibility today to the 2,300 people sleeping outside on any given night in Seattle, so that they can at least stay together and stay safe.'

Murray's proposal also got early buy-in from City Council members Mike O'Brien and Sally Bagshaw. O'Brien called it 'a smart approach that provides the stability of a place to be, while also offering services to support people trying to get back into housing.'

'This legislation is an important first step to help people transition to stable housing, the compassionate solution,' Bagshaw added.

Murray also announced that the City would double the size of the emergency shelter at the King County Administration Building from 50 beds to 100, and would add another 15 beds at a Capitol Hill facility for homeless youths.

'These folks are our neighbors, each with his or her own unfortunate path to homelessness,' Murray said in a statement.

'The dramatic erosion of state and federal investments to respond to their challenges have created a full-blown crisis. With current shelters at capacity, we must fund additional beds immediately.'

The city currently funds 1,700 shelter beds - each serving an average of 6 people a year. The Seattle City Council has already set aside the additional $182,000 needed for the additional shelter capacity announced January 14.

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