SEATTLE — Leaders of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) heard feedback Wednesday afternoon on the agency's multi-billion-dollar five-year plan to address homelessness, as well as frustration about the situation with homeless encampments in Seattle.
Several commenters at the KCRHA implementation board meeting expressed outrage about the ongoing situation with an encampment under I-5 near Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood.
“You are failing in your jobs," said Don Mackenzie, a parent who lives near the I-5 encampment. "You are failing my neighborhood. You have shown disregard and contempt about our concerns for kids being exposed [to] needles and being chased out of their after-school programs. Why would anyone support further spending on homelessness when you can’t do anything useful with the money you already receive?”
MacKenzie is one of several parents furious with the KCRHA.
“I feel the continued existence of that camp reflects the failure on the part of the KCRHA,” MacKenzie said.
MacKenzie continued, saying the agency isn’t doing enough to clean up an encampment underneath the Ship Canal Bridge in the Wallingford neighborhood. It is just blocks away from John Stanford International Elementary, where MacKenzie’s kids go to school.
The Ship Canal Bridge encampment was the scene of a fatal shooting in late January. Two people were shot at the camp in September, and multiple people told the KCRHA implementation board said there are constant safety issues in the area.
"We want a specific plan and update on what you will do to remove the encampment so we can focus on our kids' education, not their security," said Joe Silver, a parent who spoke at the KCRHA meeting.
The KCRHA's 133-page draft plan asks for $8.4 billion in one-time capital costs over five years and up to $3.4 billion in annual operating costs. Split over five years, the annual cost of the plan would be approximately $2.36 billion, roughly 10 times more than the KCRHA's 2023 budget of $253 million.
“If the authority cannot resolve this encampment with any urgency given $50 million, how can you expect the public to support you with $13 billion? All I hear really is about housing, but it’s so much more than just housing and I think that’s pretty obvious to anyone who goes down there," said parent Emily Houston. "There have been three shootings and [the ship canal encampment] is still there. It should have been done yesterday.”
KCRHA CEO Marc Dones spoke at Wednesday's meeting and acknowledged safety concerns at the Wallingford encampment, adding that the agency is doing outreach to people there every day.
“We have increased staffing at that site to everyday, including weekends. There’s ongoing engagement with the folks who live at that site and we are in the process of doing some safety planning as we prepare to resolve that site," Dones said.
Wednesday was the final day for written public comment on the agencies' five-year plan.