SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council’s Budget Committee heard presentations Thursday on the outlook for the city’s response to the homeless crisis, which continues to be an issue despite being declared an emergency more than five years ago.
One presentation, delivered by the budget committee analysts, focused on how the city’s housing capacity for those experiencing homelessness and how it is already projected to improve over the next two years.
According to those projections, the city will add a total of 2,023 housing units for homeless residents by the end of 2023. This is an increase of nearly 50% compared to the end of 2019.
The number includes units being created through King County’s Health Through Housing initiative, which takes hotels closed by the COVID-19 pandemic and turns them into supportive housing. The program looks to add about 1,155 units by the end of 2022 across the entire county. In Seattle, the initiative will create a little over 400 units.
The second presentation involved Mayor Jenny Durkan’s recently revealed 2022 budget proposal, which includes millions of dollars for homelessness.
While the city’s spending will ultimately be decided by the council, Durkan’s proposal looks to set goals on how the city’s resources will help get more people sheltered and living better quality lives.
The proposal first looks to maintain services that have been implemented amid the COVID-19 crisis as federal assistance begins to decrease while ramping up shelter capacity across the city.
Another major piece of her proposal involves transferring oversight and administration of homeless services and contracts to the King County Regional Housing Authority, which is slated to come online next year.
As for the amount of money the city looks to have in 2022 for its homelessness budget, Durkan’s office estimates there will be just under $170 million, with the largest chunk of this going toward emergency housing and services.
The proposal prioritizes finding alternatives to traditional shelters, expanding current housing programs to address a broader range of service needs and helping give the regional housing authority the workforce and support it needs.
This includes more than $22 million to maintain and improve shelters put up in response to COVID-19, about $3.3 million to fund a 120-unit non-congregate shelter and provide services to native populations, about $6 million to add more services to work in conjunction with federal housing vouchers and another $6.7 million for the housing authority to provide rapid rehousing.
Beyond housing and services, Durkan’s budget also looks to address encampments in parks and public spaces and some of the effects they have had when it comes to litter and damage.
This includes nearly $1 million to address the impacts of unmanaged camps (litter removal, site restoration, storage) and about $2 million for the restoration of severely damaged parks.
The latter efforts would focus on pest control, fencing, tree replacement, graffiti removal and repairing things like play areas.
The council and the budget committee is expected to deliberate over next year’s budget over the next two months or so with the next committee meeting taking place Friday to discuss funding for multiple departments like Seattle Parks and Recreation, Department of Transportation and the Human Services Department.