“The first step to helping people out of parks and public spaces is safe, supportive housing. The County’s purchase of hotel spaces is the right path to providing immediate housing – Seattle should build on this momentum by dedicating local and state funds toward capital expenditures on housing, and dedicate a majority of federal resources to provide needed recovery support and services. This should be done with a priority focus on helping people out of the most sensitive areas – like Seattle Public School properties and City playfields – and into stable housing environments.”
SEATTLE – Mayoral Candidate and former City Council President Bruce Harrell today called upon the current Mayor and Council to dedicate a majority of the estimated $120 million in 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding toward expanding emergency housing services and support, with a goal of assisting chronically homeless residents out of sensitive public areas. These federal funds, targeted to pandemic recovery, can supplement existing local option sales tax and state funds made available for capital investments in housing, including hotels, tiny homes, and other long-term, stable alternatives to temporary and often disruptive congregate shelters. Harrell’s call comes following King County Executive Dow Constantine’s announced purchase of the Queen Anne Hotel in Seattle, using a similar funding model that the county plans to replicate in other communities in the coming weeks.
“The most urgent issue in our city deserves planning and resources that will make the greatest immediate impact,” said Harrell, who has called for a massive investment in emergency housing and services as a first act if elected Mayor this November. “The pandemic made the crisis on our streets worse – for the vulnerable in our community in particular as congregate shelters were forced to reduce density, and too many fell through the cracks of a frayed safety net. The City Council and Mayor can act now to dedicate the greatest share of these funds to provide wraparound services and support – through our own programs or in partnership with the County.”
Under Harrell’s plan, Seattle would prioritize the purchase, construction and transition of hundreds of units of permanent emergency housing in the first year of his administration, utilizing a combination of local and state resources, plus philanthropic dollars and Phase 2 of the ARPA funds expected in 2022. The availability right now of 2021 ARPA dollars is a down payment on this broader strategy that Harrell believes could accelerate progress and address some of the most contentious issues facing a city too often divided on issues of homelessness and encampments.
“Taking ownership of the homelessness crisis in a responsible, compassionate manner requires vision and leadership, and a plan that builds unity and trust that we can come together as a city and help restore lives and neighborhoods,” said Harrell. “An immediate dedication of dollars can get Seattle on the right path, and help the next Mayor hit the ground running as we look to assist thousands of neighbors into needed housing.”
Specifically, Harrell hopes the first dollars dedicated by the city can address some of the most urgent needs, including helping mitigate dispersed encampments on Seattle Public School properties, around parks and playfields, and other areas where a lack of sanitation and little access to services and support – juxtaposed by a growing number of kids returning to school and outdoor recreation – are creating tensions and safety concerns with little action being taken.
“It is irresponsible for the City, the School District, or anyone to tell concerned families that there is nothing to be done to alleviate concerns with encampments on and around our schools and playfields, and equally irresponsible to not provide emergency housing options for vulnerable people who have nowhere else to go,” said Harrell. “We are a city with the resources, provider expertise, and innovative spirit to tackle big problems. Let’s take the money we are getting now and prioritize helping people out of places that are clearly incompatible with both pandemic recovery and personal recovery. We can – and must – do everything we can to make immediate progress.”
This is the second call for dedicated resources from Harrell, having previously suggested that a smaller amount – in the $10 million range – should be allocated for gun violence prevention. Specifically, Harrell wants to acknowledge and help victims and families recover from the unacceptable increases in domestic violence, sexual assault, and gun violence that have occured throughout the pandemic, as well as ensure stronger community engagement and education to reduce the number of guns in our community, especially among Black youth. Harrell sees both of these dedicated investments as steps toward rebuilding a stronger Seattle.
“The strength of President Biden’s American Recovery Plan is that it allows for communities to target urgent needs to make the most impact and help – in his words – ‘Build Back Better,’” said Harrell. “With a modest investment in helping families and communities disproportionately impacted by violence, and a game changing expenditure in emergency housing, we can set Seattle – and all the people who live here – on a confident path to recovery around values that unite us. I am so grateful for the leadership we are seeing in our nation and region to literally put our money where our mouths are with respect to safety, equity, and housing. Now is the time for Seattle to step up as well.”