Over 250 people packed Town Hall on February 2 for the first of a three-part series of forums about solutions to homelessness. The Seattle metro region can do better on this issue, and the series—organized by the Seattle Metro Chamber in partnership with the Downtown Seattle Association, Visit Seattle, and the Alliance for Pioneer Square and generously supported by Starbucks—seeks to dig more deeply into reports commissioned by the City of Seattle, King County, and United Way that point toward a path to get more people out of homelessness and into stable housing.
Moderated by Dave Ross of KIRO Radio, the panel featured All Home Director Mark Putnam, City of Seattle Homelessness Director George Scarola, and national homelessness expert Barbara Poppe, who recently completed a set of recommendations for the City of Seattle.
Poppe stressed that in the long-term, her primary recommendation is to increase throughput so that people are moved to stable housing, instead of cycling through shelters as they do today. She pointed out, “Two-thirds of families who exit emergency shelter exit back to homelessness. […] When you look at single adults, it’s even worse: […] 85 percent were homeless at the end of it.” Elaborating on what is needed, Poppe said, “You’ve got to get the shelters to be a place that is housing-focused and can resolve the crisis. The only way they can resolve the crisis is by having access to the financial assistance and units available in your community. […] You have to really focus on the end with great intention.”
Scarola expressed confidence that the problem is solvable, and shared that Mayor Ed Murray is standing up a plan based on the recommendations of Poppe’s report. He stressed the importance of making sure that the $56 million the City spends on homelessness services leads to better outcomes: “not how many people did we provide shelter to, but how many people did we provide with permanent, stable housing?”
Panelists agreed that community support and engagement is critical. Putnam noted, “One of the challenges in getting to that approach of having as many opportunities to get people indoors as possible […] is that we have a really hard time siting these programs. […] If we can’t place those programs in the community, we can’t make progress on the person who’s living in a tent[…].”
Poppe closed by exhorting the community to act with greater urgency. She pointed out to applause that one of her biggest takeaways from the year she spent here working on her report was that “Your community is very comfortable being alarmed at problems, but actually moving to solutions with great urgency…”
To that end, the Chamber and its partners are planning the second and third parts of this series, which will continue to highlight solutions recommended for lasting, systemic change.
Attend an upcoming forum
The second and third forums in this series will be announced soon. Please contact Scott Kennedy, the Chamber’s external relations manager, if you are interested in attending, and we will add you to our email list for these events.
Take a deeper dive into these reports and other resources:
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