The budget’s misused money neglects the homeless
By Liam Geary, Gwyneth Lyman, Lily Timblin, Charles Thornburgh, and Max Coddington
Students at The Center School, Seattle
Those who have walked down the streets of Seattle or have taken a ride on a public bus understand why the city is in a state of emergency. Homelessness has staked its claim across Seattle and will continue to snowball if the city’s representatives do not increase the funding for Health and Human Services.
Funding for Health and Human Services has gone up dramatically since 2015, and the growth rate of the homeless population in Seattle reflects it. According to the King County “One Night Count,” there were 2,942 people living without shelter as of 2016 in Seattle, a 4.6% increase from 2015. While this was not a good change, it was a great improvement from 2014 to 2015, which saw an increase of 22.1%. It is clear that Health & Human Services are slowing the homelessness growth rate, and with greater funding, it will reverse the trend.
According to the Stranger, the proposed 2018 budget will, if passed, address homelessness by creating a second Navigation Team, a group of enforcers that removes homeless encampments. The proposed one would focus on people living in cars. This plan will cost $800,000 if approved.
Many believe that such a team is not without its merit, since the cars are taking up space that could otherwise be used for something more productive. However, the goal should not be to move the problem elsewhere. The “sweeps,” as they are often called by the community, do not reach keystones of the homelessness crisis: drug abuse and the lack of temporary shelter. According to the 2016 Homeless Needs Assessment, 34.9% of the homeless population was suffering from addictions to methamphetamines, heroin, or crack. While it is not true that addictions frequently cause homelessness, it is true that these same addictions often block homeless individuals from shelters and receiving the help they need. Undoubtedly, these people are in great need of rehabilitation for better hope of rising out of homelessness. The city of Seattle must assist by providing rehabilitation for those in need.
The $800,000 from the Navigation Plan would be better spent providing shelter and rehabilitation. City cleanups are already in place, and moving homeless people around is unproductive. These funds should pay for low-barrier shelter where people can start working towards overcoming the challenges they face. Low-barrier shelters and rehabilitation resources are especially important in providing a safe space for those fighting addiction to reside.
The current proposed funding for Health and Human Services is inadequate and misplaced. The money proposed to go to a new Navigation Plan would be put to better use if the Seattle City Council chooses to spend it on low-barrier shelters and rehabilitation. Those resources are invaluably important for the homeless population and for our community. The shelter and safety of each individual creates a better city.
The final public hearing on the 2018 proposed budget happens on Wednesday, November 1st at the Seattle City Hall (600 4th Ave, 2nd floor). If you wish to see a change in the budget, testify to the Seattle City Council.