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White House initiative aims to reduce homelessness in Seattle

Homeless encampment tents at Seattle's City Hall Park in June 2021. (KOMO News file photo)
Homeless encampment tents at Seattle's City Hall Park in June 2021. (KOMO News file photo)
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In an effort to reduce homelessness nationwide, President Joe Biden's administration is planning to accelerate local efforts to find shelter for homeless people in Seattle, as well as several other major metro areas.

On Thursday, the White House announced Seattle, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix and the state of California as cities and states selected to partner with the ALL INside initiative and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. The goal of the initiative is to reduce homelessness by 25% by 2025.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and King County Executive Dow Constantine joined the White House's livestream launch event Tuesday morning.

"My plan offers a roadmap for not only getting people into housing but also ensuring that they have access to the support, services, and income that allow them to thrive," Biden said in a statement. "It is a plan that is grounded in the best evidence and aims to improve equity and strengthen collaboration at all levels.

"This plan meets the urgency of the moment. It recognizes that it’s not enough to go back to the way things were before the pandemic. We must build a better future for all Americans. This plan also recognizes that homelessness should not be a partisan issue. A great nation has a moral obligation to ensure housing, but it’s also the smart thing to do."

Homeless crisis

Seattle also received federal help for its homeless crisis in the fall, when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) helped the King County Regional Homelessness Authority open the Housing Command Center, a facility functioning as a hub for homeless resources in the region in a "disaster response frame of mind," according to HUD.

According to HUD, there are 7,708 unsheltered homeless people in King County, more than everywhere in the U.S. except Los Angeles city and county (45,878) and San Jose/Santa Clara (7,708) city and county.

KOMO News reported in April the city of Seattle has spent nearly $1 billion on homelessness in more than a decade, and the number of unsheltered people continues to rise.

The city of Seattle’s Budget Office provided the adopted budget amount dating back to 2013, which includes the amount spent on Human Services Department (HSD) contracts and the citywide spending on the department, including labor costs. The total adds up to nearly $1 billion in the 11-year span.

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Between 2013 and 2018, the city spent a minimum of $33.5 million on HSD contracts. After then-Mayor Ed Murray declared a homelessness state of emergency in 2015, the spending started to rise. By 2018, the citywide budget ballooned to $85.2 million. By 2021, that number had doubled to $166.48 million.

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