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Gov. Inslee wants to tap reserve funds to address homelessness crisis

In unveiling his supplemental spending plan to the $52.4 billion two-year budget, Gov. Jay Inslee said Washington must do more to combat homelessness.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wants to spend more than $300 million from the state’s emergency budget reserve to add 2,100 shelter beds and provide other help to combat homelessness. 

“We’ve done a lot, but the fact is we are not keeping pace with the tide of people that need housing in Washington state," Inslee said. 

In unveiling his supplemental spending plan Wednesday to the state’s current $52.4 billion two-year budget, Inslee said Washington must do more to find housing for people. 

“We need a response that will match the scope of this crisis. We are using the rainy-day fund, because it’s raining, physically," Inslee said.

Washington has the fifth-highest per-capita rate of homelessness, Inslee said. 

He emphasized the homelessness crisis is not just an urban or western Washington problem but instead spans across the entire state.

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“This touches every community one way or another in the state of Washington," Inslee said.

Inslee's plan will be in partnership with local governments and nonprofits to help find people housing.

Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby said the city has a plan to handle the homeless but needs extra funding from the state.

"It's squalor and we don't have the capacity to bring them indoors," said Selby.

Selby said she would likely use emergency funding from the state to buy cargo containers for the homeless. The city is testing a cargo container shelter in a homeless encampment that's been redesigned to house three individual tenants.

"It's super-sturdy, it's super-affordable, it's better than a tent," said Selby.

The state currently has about $2.5 billion in its emergency fund. The Legislature, which convenes next month, will consider Inslee's proposal.

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