Earlier this month, the Seattle City Council voted to defund the Human Services Department’s homeless Navigation Team. This move eliminates dedicated city funding that supports coordinated outreach to, cleanup of, and sanitation services for tent encampments across Seattle.
The Council made this decision at a time when the number of people experiencing homelessness is growing due to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Moreover, they made the decision with no plan for how to provide these necessary services going forward.
This decision is irresponsible and will likely have negative impacts on our unsheltered population and on neighborhoods and business districts across Seattle.
Mayor Durkan took opposition to the Council’s decision and ultimately vetoed their revised 2020 budget, underscoring the need to have a plan in place with supplemental services before defunding the Navigation Team and trimming Seattle Police Department staff. The Council will now need to take the balance package back up after their recess on Sept. 8.
DSA stands with the mayor and her call for more thoughtful budgeting and policymaking. We believe firmly that Seattle needs a coordinated effort to address encampments when they become entrenched or pose a danger to neighbors or others living outside.
DSA has been vocal on this issue, submitting letters to City Council and representing downtown stakeholders in the media. In the coming months, the mayor and Council will begin deliberating on the city’s 2021 budget. DSA will continue to express your concerns and work with government leaders, business, social service advocates and others to develop solutions to ensure the health, safety and vibrancy of downtown. However, we also encourage you to contact the Council and mayor directly on these issues so they continue to hear a balance of opinions.