“The City of Seattle is failing the unsheltered, kids and families, and our sense of community. We can and must do better, and as Mayor, I will take real, immediate action to end this humanitarian crisis,” said Harrell.
Seattle – Candidate for Mayor Bruce Harrell today returned to Green Lake and adjacent Lower Woodland Park to provide more detail on his plans to address the homelessness crisis and call for the city to step up action to assist people out of encampments.
Harrell, who met with local residents and toured the area last weekend, noted that these areas have been among the highest profile sites of growing tension between residents and park users, and those who live unsheltered. A large Lower Woodland encampment recently became so intractable that the Seattle Public Schools were forced to seek alternative sites for cross country practice, long held in the park’s many hills and trails.
“Let me be clear that the problem facing these parks – and open spaces across our city – are not the people who live here unsheltered, but the leaders who fail to recognize the urgency and inhumanity of allowing this to continue,” said Harrell in prepared remarks, who earlier this spring visited the park adjacent to the Broadview-Thomson K-8 school, where another large encampment remains present on school property.
“There are examples across our city where a lack of action by the City is harming kids and families, harming local residents, and perpetuating the humanitarian crisis we see every day. We need a Mayor who will make this crisis the top priority for city action, not point fingers and wait for others to step up,” said Harrell.
As part of a broad outline of actions he plans to take, Harrell is committing a minimum budget threshold of 12% of city funds, an increase over past years that he believes can be allocated without significant cuts to other priorities. He plans to supplement these resources with one-time funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), as well as revenues provided through state and private dollars. Harrell pledges to build a plan with greater transparency and a public dashboard to track both the magnitude of the challenge and the city’s response addressing the crisis, with regular benchmarks and progress reports.
“We must put our money where our values are, and provide the housing and services needed to restore lives, restore parks, and restore trust in city government,” said Harrell. “This year, the City left money on the table from the federal government, and sat by as a school community asked for help at Broadview-Thomson. They shuttered park facilities and now are further disrupting kids’ athletic activities as school begins and the pandemic pushes more people back into our parks and safe, outdoor environments. It has to stop. We have to own the crisis and take decisive action.”
With the resources identified, Harrell pledges to identify and begin the process of moving people into 1,000 units of housing within the first 6 months of taking office, and securing an additional 1,000 units by the end of year one. Complementing physical housing, Harrell will work to concurrently bring individualized, culturally-competent services and outreach to a needed scale, so that people in crisis and facing trauma and disruption can transition into housing and regain stability and health.
“It is critical that we never scapegoat those who are suffering,” said Harrell. “It is too easy in emotional settings to forget that no one seeks to live without shelter, without sanitation, and without hope. If we are going to address this with humanity and conviction, we must provide wraparound services that not only help people out of tents, but make sure they never slip back through the cracks.”
Harrell also wants to see a greater emphasis on homelessness prevention, including dedicated funding for emergency rental assistance, as well as targeted support and resources for those disproportionately represented in the homeless population, including Black, Indigenous and People of Color, LGBTQ+ youth and others.
“If we can prevent homelessness from happening, we can save lives, rebuild communities, and direct resources toward equitable, upstream investments,” said Harrell. “Homelessness is not a crisis with one root cause or one comprehensive solution, but we can use data and best practices to help rebuild lives impacted by lack of shelter, and safeguard those most at risk, whether it’s money to prevent evictions, counseling and outreach to help at-risk individuals and families, or access to job training.”
As part of stepping up resources, housing and services to reduce homelessness, Harrell wants to make sure Seattle’s parks and open spaces are restored and reopened for all.
“We have a world class park system in this city that we have allowed to slip into disuse and disrepair,” said Harrell. “I will dedicate the resources and tools to reclaim and reopen our parks and public spaces so they are welcoming, safe, and vibrant for all to use. As we secure needed housing and help people live with dignity, we can and must make sure that this crisis never reaches this level again. That is my pledge and commitment to the people of our city.”