Homelessness up 23% while Seattle plans to cut funding for homelessness by 19%

Seattle News:

The new interim SPOG contract passed City Council on Tuesday with a 7-1 vote, Councilmember Tammy Morales being the only CM opposed. Mayor Bruce Harrell signed the legislation soon thereafter. You can read more about it in my article here. You can read about some of the SPD officers who will be receiving large backpay payments here.

Officer Kevin Dave, who hit and killed Jaahnavi Kandula last year, was issued a traffic citation by the Seattle Municipal Court. Dave was required to pay a $5k fine by May 13, but as of the evening of May 14, he hadn’t yet paid. If he continues to fail to pay the fine, he could have his driver’s license revoked.

At the Public Safety committee meeting this week, councilmembers discussed the bill to approve the expansion of SPD’s automatic license plate readers (ALPRs). SPD wants to include these ALPRs in all existing patrol vehicle dash cameras, which would cost about $280k per year. Councilmembers expressed concern about the current data retention period as well as harms this technology could cause to people seeking reproductive healthcare. The legislation has not yet come to a committee vote, but may do so as early as May 28. 

At the Select Budget committee meeting on Wednesday, councilmembers heard presentations on the General Fund Financial Plan Update and the JumpStart Payroll Expense Tax. The budget deficit for 2025 has grown once more, from $241 million to $258 million, due to settled labor contract costs exceeding planning estimates, Councilmember Rob Saka expressed some reluctance to use the JumpStart tax to fill in the General Fund deficit, and other councilmembers also expressed interest in staying true to the original purpose of the tax, which was codified in the JumpStart spending plan that allocates money to affordable housing, green new deal investments, equitable development, and small businesses. They were also concerned about the tax’s potential volatility when considering using it as a permanent General Fund fix. 

Ballard Food Bank’s 2023 annual report was recently released, and it showed the number of household shopping visits and deliveries in 2023 was more than double the number in 2019.  Emergency financial assistance in 2023 was 4 times what it was in 2021.  

KUOW uncovered the secret donor behind the kid playground at Denny Blaine Park that would have potentially displaced the nude beach that is currently located there. Wealthy resident Stuart Sloan, who lives near the park, texted Mayor Bruce Harrell directly to complain about the park and offered to foot at least part of the bill for the proposed playground. As KUOW reported, “The playground plans showcase how the ultra-wealthy can exert influence in Seattle city government, and how the city’s policy of accepting anonymous gifts allows it to keep contributors secret.”

On Homelessness in the Region:

The 2024 King County Point-In-Time count was released this week, and it showed that 16,385 individuals on any given night in King County are experiencing homelessness. This number has increased 23% from the same estimate done in 2022, and is the largest number ever found in these reports. Homelessness in King County continues to impact communities of color disproportionately, with 19% of those unhoused identifying as Black and 7% as Indigenous while only 6% of King County’s total population identifies as Black and only 1% identifies as Indigenous, although there is a possibility that the disparity for Indigenous communities is even worse than these numbers due to counting methods.

As The Seattle Times reports, this news comes at a time when Seattle has asked the King County Regional Homelessness Authority to cut its funding ask for 2025: “The current proposed budget would eliminate hundreds of shelter beds, among other services, which are often used to move people from the street and get them ready for permanent housing.”

A more detailed article from The Seattle Times elucidates that the net loss for 2024 would be $21 million, which is about a 19% decrease. This would cut “about 300 emergency shelter beds, a 125-bed shelter for Black men in the Central District, homelessness diversion funding for 265 households, and a reduction in behavioral health services or beds at tiny home villages.”

The article quotes Alison Eisinger, the executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness: “I defy you to find me one person in the city of Seattle who thinks that reducing the number of shelter beds available in this city is the right move,” she said.

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