Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced a $30 million request for proposals for homeless services Wednesday. It was the first such request for the city in more than 10 years.
The money will come from various buckets of the Human Services Department budget, which will be repurposed to focus on the goals of the RFP and addressing racial disparities, Catherine Lester, the department's director said.
"The system that we have is basically different programs that accrued over time that councils or former mayors added on that don't have a coordinated or integrated approach," Murray said. "Instead of just funding a bunch of programs we're trying an integrated approach that creates a single system."
The city wants applicants that are committed to helping people get off the streets and into permanent housing, Murray said. The RFP encourages applicants to focus on collaboration.
"We will be able to connect the best programs to create a coordinated, proactive effort by many of our service providers," Murray said.
Some of the targets of the RFP include: Increasing exit rates to permanent housing, reducing the average length of stay in shelters, decreasing the entries from homelessness, reducing the return rates to homelessness, and utilizing all shelter beds available.
The RFP also calls for racial equality. Data shows that African Americans are five times more likely to be homeless than whites in King County, Murray said.
Lester said the city has three strategies for addressing homelessness: Responding to the crisis of people who currently are homeless, housing affordability, and improving the system that responds to homeless people.
"I am personally impacted by homelessness, which is why I do this work," Lester said. "For that reason, I think it's really critical that we together work with urgency to make sure that every investment that we make is toward something we know works, that we are person-centered, and that we lead with race."
Murray said in the past, the city has focused on temporary fixes, but the RFP aims to find permanent housing solutions.
A report released earlier in June said more than 11,500 people were homeless during a single night in January.
The opiate epidemic, the state's lack of funding for mental health, the federal government's decrease of funding for human services, and Seattle's housing crisis were four of the major factors Murray said contributes to the homeless problem.
Lester said the department will hold three information sessions next month for organizations to ask questions about the RFP. Applications are due Sept. 5, and the city plans to award a contract in December.