OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing a host of efforts to address homelessness, including efforts to help people stay in their homes, increasing emergency shelters and permanent supportive housing and expanding services for those struggling with addiction or mental health issues.
Inslee looks to spend about $815 million, with more than two-thirds covered by federal coronavirus funding.
His proposal looks to build on nearly $2 billion of state and federal money that was approved by the Legislature earlier this year for housing and homelessness programs.
Inslee’s office says that before the pandemic, about 30 out of every 10,000 Washingtonians were experiencing homelessness and that preliminary data indicates that there was a 2% increase from January 2020 to January 2021.
As of January 2020, there were an estimated 22,923 people in Washington experiencing homelessness, according to information from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Of those, 2,116 were family households, 1,607 veterans, 1,777 people between the ages of 18-24 and 6,756 who were experiencing chronic homelessness.
Washington saw the third-largest increase in homelessness between 2019 and 2020, according to the 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. There was an increase of 1,346 experiencing homelessness during that time.
As of October, more than 80,000 households were "likely facing eviction or foreclosure in the next two months," according to Inslee's office.
Shelter capacity for those who are displaced has also been squeezed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
A KING 5 statewide poll of 650 adults in October shows Washingtonians overwhelmingly believe the solution to homelessness relies on more resources and affordable housing. In that poll, 35% said more resources were needed and another 30% cited a need for more affordable housing. About 10% said new leadership is necessary and 13% said more enforcement of laws is necessary.