Seattle (Feb. 18, 2020) – During her third annual State of the City address, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan outlined progressive actions and her continued work to deliver improved outcomes. After two years of urgent action on homelessness, including the largest shelter expansion in the history of our City, leveraging $75 million of new state resources to build and maintain permanent supportive housing and the creation of King County Regional Homelessness Authority, Mayor Durkan set out to accomplish more transformational and systemic change to improve the lives of our neighbors experiencing homelessness.
Transforming our Region’s Homelessness Response – King County Regional Homelessness Authority: Recognizing that homelessness knows no boundaries, Mayor Durkan, City and County stakeholders, and people with lived experience were steadfast in their work over the past two years to develop a new framework for our fractured and siloed homelessness response system. In December, Mayor Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine began a new era by signing an Interlocal Agreement (ILA) for the creation of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority. The Regional Homelessness Authority will have the resources and authority to improve outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.
Harnessing Technology to Address our City’s Biggest Challenges: Last week, Mayor Durkan unveiled a new Zillow-powered search tool to help match local nonprofit service providers and their clients experiencing homelessness with owners of affordable vacant rental units. A project borne of Mayor Durkan’s Innovation Advisory Council, the new search tool was developed by a team of Zillow employees in close partnership with the Seattle Office of Housing, local nonprofit organization Housing Connector and its network of service providers and property owners. This builds on previous work on homelessness, including an app for the Navigation Team and the homelessness data model, produced by UW students as part of their Information School Capstone project.
Housing Seattle Now Investment: Sale of Underutilized Properties at Mercer Street: The buyer made a one-time $5 million contribution towards strategies to combat homelessness. This investment supports one-time stand-up costs for the new King County Regional Homelessness Authority and a number of other one-time investments in the Adopted Budget, including support for the Seattle Rental Housing Assistance Pilot (SRHAP), Mt. Baker Family Resource Center, and on-site nurses for locations that generate a high volume of 9-1-1 medical calls.
Investing in Permanent Supportive Housing. Since 2017, the City has invested $250 million that has been leveraged to $1.5 billion for affordable housing. This includes creating 650 units of permanent supportive housing. Last year, leveraging new authority from the State allowing an investment of more than $75 million over 20 years, to build and support nearly 200 new units of permanent supportive housing for people experiencing long-term homelessness.
Continuing the Expansion of the City’s Largest Homelessness Outreach Team: The Navigation Team is the largest mechanism connecting people experiencing homelessness with shelter and services, while also removing encampments that pose serious public health and safety risks. Since taking office, Mayor Durkan has made important investments to increase the Navigation Team from 14 members in 2017 to 38 members today. In May 2019, System Navigators joined the team furthering the reach of and connectivity between our most vulnerable neighbors, shelter and services. By contacting, on average, more than 800 individuals per quarter, the Navigation Team is the City’s largest outreach provider. The number of contacts are significant as the Team makes invaluable connections to a vulnerable community living in the shadows.
Connecting Individuals Living in Cars and Vans to Supportive Services: In 2019, Mayor Durkan launched a safe parking pilot program to connect people living in cars and vans, not RVs, to services. The City is planning for further expansion throughout 2020 with continued partnership with faith communities.
The Largest Shelter Expansion in the History of the City: In 2018, Mayor Durkan began implementation of a 25 percent increase to shelter capacity, funded through the sale of an underutilized surplus City-owned property. Mayor Durkan’s “Path to 500” is the largest expansion in the history of the City and included a variety of strategies to create new resources to bring online 516 spaces. The legislation also provided dedicated beds to serve individuals living unsheltered referred by the City’s Navigation Team.
Increasing Enhanced Shelter Beds by 88 Percent: Throughout 2018, the City worked to increase the number of enhanced shelter beds from 749 in 2017 to 1,411 at the end of 2018. Enhanced 24/7 shelters with services and case management move people to permanent housing at a rate five times higher than basic shelters. Tiny House Villages are enhanced shelters with the highest success rate of exiting people to permanent housing. The City of Seattle is recognized as a leader with the successful use of Tiny House Villages as a shelter resource.