[Just In] City Council Expands and Implements Homelessness Initiatives

By: Jillian Henze, APR Posted: 06/14/2021

Chamber Urged Action to Address the Humanitarian Crisis on our Streets

On June 14, the Seattle City Council voted 8-0 to approve Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis’s legislation to help people experiencing homelessness.

The city will now invest $9 million from the city’s budget into the King County JustCARE program -- the most expeditious and compassionate way of addressing homeless encampments in this critical reopening period. JustCARE is described as a county-funded program that moves people from tents to hotels in the Chinatown/International District, or into other hotel-based shelter programs.

You can learn more about JustCARE here.

An amendment to the council’s legislation reserves $3 million for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program. This program is a collaborative community safety effort that offers law enforcement a credible alternative to booking people into jail for criminal activity that stems from unmet behavioral health needs or poverty, according to the program’s website.

The Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Seattle Association and other partners on June 11 sent written support to the Seattle City Council and the mayor for Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis’s proposed legislation and expressed urgency with respect to downtown’s economic reopening.

Read our letter to the city below.

We appreciate the Mayor and Council’s leadership and action on expanding JustCare. There is no question that addressing homelessness is a critical element of rebuilding our region, and rebuilding in an inclusive way. All local governments need concrete plans to address the homelessness crisis. We are pleased the city is investing in solutions to aid this crisis and is supporting the regional alignment the Chamber has advocated for on this issue.

 

Dear Mayor Durkan and Members of the Council,

We write to express our strong support for the legislation introduced by Councilmember Lewis and co-sponsored by Council President González and Councilmembers Sawant, Mosqueda, and Morales to immediately expand and implement the JustCARE program to provide emergency housing, treatment and other critical services to the hundreds of people sleeping on downtown sidewalks, in doorways, alleys and parks. This effort, added to the work to address homelessness led by the Mayor, begins to put us on a path forward to helping those most in need.

Our organizations and respective members and constituencies - private sector employers, small business owners, arts and cultural venues, nonprofit organizations, and attractions - are deeply engaged in reopening downtown Seattle to welcome back workers and visitors. Collectively we are making millions of dollars in direct investments to support recovery. As a key center for jobs, arts and culture, and economic activity, successful reopening of downtown is a cornerstone of a robust regional recovery. However, our collective efforts will only be successful with urgent action to address the humanitarian crisis on our streets.

This legislation is a welcome step in the right direction at a moment when time is of the essence. It expands resources for a program that has been remarkably effective: Preliminary results of a University of Washington study presented to the Council last month found that areas near encampments saw a nearly 40% reduction in emergency calls after JustCARE interventions. In those areas, there were more than 100 fewer 9-1-1 calls compared to the same period the year before. Only 3% of people screened by JustCARE are not suitable for the program and only 13% of participants have unsuccessful outcomes. Even without any dedicated channel for permanent housing, the JustCARE hotel-based teams already have been able to place 36 participants in permanent housing in recent months (15% of those who have entered to date), with about half taking less than 5 months to complete that process.

We firmly believe that the expansion and implementation of JustCARE is critical to supporting a successful reopening of downtown Seattle. Absent urgent action, people on the streets will continue to suffer, businesses and nonprofit organizations will struggle to attract workers and customers, and the recovery of downtown will remain at risk. This threatens the future economic health of the entire city.

Employers, workers, small business owners, meeting planners and domestic and international travelers all have choices as we move closer to full reopening. We want them to choose Seattle. Our city has an opportunity to lead the way in economic recovery just as we’ve led the way in combating the pandemic and achieving one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.

We applaud Councilmember Lewis, Council President González and Councilmembers Sawant, Mosqueda, and Morales for their leadership on this issue, and thank the Mayor for her leadership as well. We urge your support for the proposed legislation to address the crisis on the streets and stand ready to work with you to ensure a robust and inclusive recovery, and a safe, healthy, thriving downtown for all.

 

Sincerely,

Jon Scholes

President & CEO

Downtown Seattle Association

 

Howard Anderson

Chair

Denny Triangle Neighborhood Association

 

Rod Kaufman

President

BOMA Seattle King County

 

Rachel Smith

President & CEO

Seattle Metropolitan Chamber

 

Lisa Howard

Executive Director

Alliance for Pioneer Square

 

Mary Bacarella

Executive Director

Pike Place Market

 

Michael Greer

President & CEO

ArtsFund

 

Tom Norwalk

President & CEO

Visit Seattle

 

Rick Hooper

Chair

Uptown Alliance

 

Danah Abarr

Executive Director

SLU Chamber