Inslee visits Seattle encampment during cleanup, urges legislators to fund affordable housing

Gov. Jay Inslee was in Seattle on Tuesday touring what was left of an encampment after a clean-up started under the First Avenue Bridge in the South Park neighborhood.

Inslee, flanked by his wife, walked the grounds while asking questions of Washington State Patrol (WSP) and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) workers that were taking part in the efforts. Other agencies, including Seattle DOT and a number of nonprofits, have teamed up to clean up the site which held 64 vehicles – many believed to have been stolen.

While the conversation ranged a number of topics, Inslee seemed to make it a point to take the Legislature to task following Monday’s release of the Washington state Senate.

That budget totals $7.9 billion but doesn’t include Inslee’s $4 billion plan to fund affordable housing.

"The first proposal from our Senate does not just not go forward, but goes backward," said Inslee. "The Senate is actually proposing going backward to invest less money in ending this homeless crisis than the last two years."

Inslee’s plan involves selling bonds over the next six years to create affordable housing at scale, which Washington’s Right of Way Safety Initiative relies on, since the program requires that housing be offered to anyone in an encampment. Housing has been hard to come by: congregate shelters often have beds, but those associated with the program say that a permanent option is needed to break the cycle, which often involves some type of addiction.


Inslee promises new action on WSDOT right-of way camps around freeways in Seattle

Gov. Jay Inslee says a pair of right-of-way homeless camps have become such a danger to the community that state agencies will be taking action to close both locations permanently.

"It’s hard to get help with a blue tarp over your head," said Inslee, referring to getting help with addiction while living in a camp.

The release of the state Senate budget plan came with a note, stating it, "stays within the state’s constitutional debt limit – an important step to protect the state’s historically high AAA credit rating and avoid higher debt service payments."

Whether the state House will take a different approach remains to be seen.

Inslee seemed bullish on the idea that funding could be made available, telling FOX 13 News: "We’re not planning for failure. The Legislature ought to be able to do this."

He later added that if the referendum goes to the ballot box, he believes his plan will be backed by voters.

As for the encampment in South Park, WSDOT reported that 30 of the 35 people that were offered housing took workers up on their offer. Meanwhile, a second encampment near I-5 under the Ship Canal Bridge is expected to be cleaned up by the end of the month.