Seattle charter amendment campaign announced to combat homelessness

On Thursday, Compassion Seattle, an alliance of business, civic, and community leaders, announced a citizen initiative campaign to create housing and services for the city’s growing homeless population. According to GeekWire, the measure’s backers include:

Erin Goodman, CEO of the SODO Business Improvement Area; Lisa Daugaard, director of the Public Defender Association; Gordon McHenry Jr., president and CEO of United Way King County; Paul Lambros, CEO of Plymouth Housing; Steven Woolworth, CEO of Evergreen Treatment Services; Derek Belgrade, the deputy director of Chief Seattle Club; and Jon Scholes, CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association.

The charter amendment initiative campaign must collect 33,060 signatures from registered Seattle voters to qualify for the November 2021 ballot. Petitions will be available soon. For more information, please visit www.compassionseattle.org.

At last count, an estimated 3,738 individuals live in unauthorized encampments and vehicles throughout the city.

Compassion Seattle’s charter amendment would require the city to:

  • Provide an additional 2,000 units of emergency or permanent housing within one year.
  • In conjunction with King County, to deploy a behavioral health rapid-response capability as an alternative, where appropriate, to a law enforcement response.
  • To identify tiny houses, hotel-motel rooms, and other forms of non-congregate emergency and permanent housing to house individuals currently camping in city parks and living in vehicles.
  • Ensure that “city parks, playgrounds, sports fields, public spaces and sidewalks and streets remain open and clear of encampments” once programs and services required by the amendment are identified and made available.

Retailers and other businesses downtown have been severely impacted by homelessness, mandated Covid-19 closures, and rising crime rates. Nearly 200 downtown businesses have permanently closed over the past year.

A new U.S. Housing and Urban Development report highlights Seattle’s homeless problem. It ranked Seattle and King County third among urban areas in the total number of people experiencing homelessness, behind New York City and Los Angeles. It also reported that the state’s 6.2% growth of homelessness between 2019 and 2020 (pre-pandemic) was the third highest in the nation behind California and Texas.

The Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) with about 700 corporate and nonprofit members – plus nearly 1,400 downtown residents – has been an outspoken advocate for additional action to address homelessness.

“DSA has been at the table with key stakeholders to help shape this much-needed action to address the crisis of chronic homelessness,” said Downtown Seattle Association President & CEO Jon Scholes. “This is the type of approach our members have long advocated for to ensure we can bring more people inside and provide the services they need.”

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