Seattle's new homeless plan would use City Hall lobby as overnight shelter
SEATTLE - A day after the Seattle City Council repealed a tax on big businesses, a committee approved Mayor Jenny Durkan’s $13 million dollar plan to get 500 homeless individuals into new temporary and enhanced shelter in 90 days.
Part of the plan includes opening the City Hall lobby as an overnight shelter, run by the Salvation Army, starting on June 29. The lobby is large enough for 120 mats that will be used as bedding.
This is in addition to the City Hall overnight shelter that has been operating for the last couple of years three floors below. That has the capacity for 60 people spending the night.
But, the fallout from the repeal by its supporters can be seen on the committee’s faces.
“We are getting clobbered because the public is unclear on the successes we are having and what we are doing,” said Council Member Sally Bagshaw who is also Chairman of the Finance and Neighborhoods Committee.
The committee voted unanimously to approve Durkan’s plan, which also includes setting up tiny house villages for 125 people, and enhanced shelters that provides services that the city claims will keep individuals from going back to the streets.
But it was clear, the committee members who were frustrated with the repeal, hinted of a new strategy that the mayor echoed: get neighboring governments to pay their fare share to solve the affordable housing crisis.
"I have seen with my own eyes the city of Tukwila and the city of SeaTac drive up and drop off people at the DESC as an example,” Bagshaw said of a downtown Seattle homeless shelter.
“It is putting a burden on us, the city of Seattle and taxpayers that's really not shared,” Bagshaw added.
The mayor reinforced the strategy in an interview with KOMO News.
“Seattle has shouldered too much of the financial burden, and the burden on our streets, it’s time for the rest of the region to step up,” said Durkan.
Durkan has no immediate plans for a tax to make up the lost revenue that the tax on big businesses would have provided in 2019.
“I think it’s the wrong time to have a discussion about taxes,” said Durkan.
She blames the repeal on the city for not doing a better job at selling the benefits of the tax.
“We are hitting reset - I think it's good for governments to be able to say to the people, 'we listened, we heard you and we are going to make a better case.'”
During the committee meeting Council Member Lorena Gonzalez, a firm supporter of the tax, reaffirmed what many of the council believe.
“We know how to fix this, it’s deep investment into massive quantities of affordable housing,” Gonzalez said.
She also hinted that if no new revenue source becomes available to pay for the ‘deep investment,’ then city projects could be put on hold.
“And that inherently means that the public will have to give up things as well,” Gonzalez said.