We need a Mayor who will take immediate and decisive action, a relentless leader who will take ownership of the problem. I will own it. My plan is to bring a new approach – one that will combine local and federal resources and work to coordinate with regional partners to ensure an ambitious plan – urgently getting people out of parks and streets and into stable housing with the on-site services they need.
To ensure coordination and accountable planning, I’ll work with local and regional partners to develop an accountable, ambitious plan with transparency and benchmarks to expand and provide housing and services on demand to every unsheltered neighbor. This plan will be online and accessible to the public with measurable outcomes and defined reporting, and establish progressive, dedicated revenue tied to meeting housing and cleanup goals, restoring public confidence.
This spring, I called for the City to use a majority of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to immediately expand support services, while drawing on existing local dollars to fund the purchase, construction, and transition of hundreds of units of permanent housing through hotels, tiny homes, and other long-term, stable supportive housing options.
While the current Council fell short of the needed majority level funding, in 2022, we can and must go further, combining scheduled American Rescue Plan Act funding, local and state resources, and philanthropic support.
From my first year in office, we will treat the homelessness crisis appropriately as the greatest challenge facing our city. By uniting together on this shared mission, rather than pointing fingers, we will help restore lives, revitalize shared spaces and parks, and strengthen our communities and city.
My wife, a former United Way of King County CEO, and I have experience in raising significant, dedicated funding for health and human services. So many neighbors want to help solve the homelessness crisis, but don’t know what to do. What is their entry point? We are a compassionate city and people are tired of seeing stalled progress and continued in-fighting. Seattle will be nationally known for our collective effort and my job as Mayor will be to create and lead this effort.
With your vote, I will secure needed resources through a variety of existing sources, including:
- Establish a minimum 12% of the City budget to address this housing crisis. This is both an increase in current funding and a sustainable level identified by a coalition of civic and housing services leaders for making a needed, immediate impact.
- Dedicate a minimum 50% of 2022 American Rescue Plan Act to housing and services. The pandemic made the homelessness crisis worse, and one time funds are available to help. We cannot repeat the mistakes made this year with underfunding homelessness response and leaving people literally in the cold.
- Leverage additional state and private resources through the Regional Homelessness Authority, the most effective way to make sure that Seattle is both doing a fair share to provide housing and services, and coordinate with other cities who must do their part as well.
- Create a Dynamic Non-Profit Partnership, creating a model where every resident and business can make tax deductible donations that go directly to addressing homelessness and where they can participate in community clothing drives, food distribution lines, clean-up work parties, resume drafting sessions, drug and alcohol treatment conversations and other activities that provide direct support to those experiencing homelessness. Our children will learn from our collective ability to show compassion.
These interconnected one time and long range funding models will be set in motion to deliver real housing and needed services, including:
- Identify 1,000 units of emergency, supportive shelter in the first 6 months of my administration, with another 1,000 by the end of year one. These levels are ambitious but attainable – and critically needed to help those suffering outdoors receive the stability they deserve. The County is hard at work identifying hotels and other indoor spaces to address this need – the city can and must be an active partner in making this a reality.
- Bring accessible, culturally competent, and individualized service plans to scale, partnering with nonprofit providers and experts in outreach and recovery to ensure that when the city thoughtfully approaches an encampment with housing and services, everyone receives the care they need to transition not only into housing, but also recovery and support.
- Identify and address factors that drive overrepresentation of Black, Indigenous and other People of Color among those experiencing chronic homelessness. We can and must tailor existing and new City programs and resources to address these underlying, ongoing inequities. I passed Seattle’s first Race and Social Justice Initiative to remove barriers for BIPOC advancement and success in our city programs, contracting, and employment – critical experience for tackling the structural issues that lead to unacceptably high rates of homelessness among minority communities.
- Provide specific, dedicated support for LGBTQ+ youth and seniors. LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to end up homeless compared to non-LGBTQ+ counterparts. While addressing root causes of this challenge – often familial rejection, discrimination, missing economic opportunities, and lack of societal support structures – we must also work to provide tailored, culturally-appropriate housing, services, and outreach to those already experiencing homelessness, and where possible and appropriate, reunite families. Further, we need to create the conditions to give LGBTQ+ seniors the options to age in place in their long standing neighborhoods or with fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community where they can feel safe and comfortable.
- Expand Emergency Rental Assistance programs using federal, state, and local funding. The best way to prevent homelessness is to make sure people on the margins, experiencing job loss or a financial emergency, or suffering a mental or physical health issue remain housed and supported. It is much more cost effective to keep people housed than to provide shelter and services later.
- Build a non-law enforcement crisis/rapid response team focused on urgent response to behavioral health crises, non-violent public disruption, and other issues where a uniformed, armed officer is neither needed nor appropriate.
- Fund low-barrier, rapid-access mental health and substance use disorder treatment services with a focus on those who are chronically homeless and face the greatest barriers to engagement and lasting success with these services.
- Employ a rigorous “Housing First” strategy for encampment removal and mitigation. Dispersal only causes harm to individuals, and perpetuates the lack of public confidence in city response.
- Ensure that City parks, playgrounds, sports fields, public spaces and sidewalks and streets remain open and clear of encampments. These sites not only lack essential sanitation and often create challenges for engagement and outreach by service providers, but create public health and safety conflicts with the intended use of these spaces. It is simply incompatible to have an encampment on or near school property, on a playfield or recreational trail, in a business district, or other similar spaces.
- Fund Restoration of Parks and Public Spaces, linking progress in housing with restoration and activation of parks, sidewalks and green spaces—with immediate funding and City personnel dedicated to trash and debris cleanup, neighborhood response, and de-escalating conflict while we bring housing and services to scale.
- Build Affordable Housing Faster. Critical, housing levy funded projects are too often needlessly bogged down in our own red tape. Persistent delays throughout our process can make a project wait far beyond a year before it receives a building permit. Further, these delays add to the overall cost of the project. We are in a crisis and this is a preventable situation. As Mayor, all affordable projects will get their approval within 12 months of submitting for a permit, or faster. We have an incredible city workforce and I will empower them to safely and efficiently evaluate and permit these desperately needed units. Delaying homes in a housing crisis is avoidable and unacceptable.
Our actions on these policies and more will be driven by our compassion as a city – not our anger and frustration at the problem. We will demand that every person be treated with dignity.
There are no quick fixes to this crisis, but we know strategies that provide immediate shelter, personalized case management, and long-term care and treatment work. Let’s do this, together.