SEATTLE -- Thursday the city of Seattle unveiled two consultant studies on homelessness and a plan to reform a disjointed group of homeless services.
Mayor Ed Murray’s plan is titled “Pathways Home”. It focuses on getting homeless people quickly into housing, creating a more-streamlined system by using a centralized database, prioritizing families and the long-time homeless to housing, and creating a performance-based, data-driven funding process.
It’s the product of two consultant’s studies. Focus Strategies assessed the performance of existing systems. Barbara Poppe and Associates focused on changes that could be made to improve the system.
“Rather than investing in a comprehensive continuum of services, investments have been made very haphazardly, without true strategic direction,” the mayor’s report said.
The report said while certain aspects of Seattle’s homelessness solution are nationally-recognized, the report said as whole other cities like Houston and Las Vegas have addressed the issue more effectively.
“In comparing these more effective cities to Seattle,” Pathways Home continued. “It is clear that the focus on the development of a comprehensive system, rather than exemplary individual programs, is critical to successfully reducing homelessness.”
Part of the plan is to increase accountability and expand performance-based contracting. The report said its goal is to invest in services with demonstrated success. The city plans to institute more contracts based on data and not on legacy, the report stated.
In Focus Strategies’ report, it recommended “cutting back investment in lower performing transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, and other permanent housing” and instead increasing funding in rapid re-housing. Rapid re-housing can include helping find housing opportunities and providing short-term financial assistance.
The city’s goal is to move 500 unsheltered families indoors by 2017. It plans to open the Navigation Center by 2017, which is based on a similar concept in San Francisco. Seattle’s is to be a low-barrier, 24-hour shelter.
To help those on wait lists, the city will create a list of affordable housing available.
The report also prioritizes housing for families and those who have been homeless the longest.
The report outlined a two-year timeline for many of its priorities, but mentioned some, like the Navigation Center and a performance-based funding pilot project have already been underway.