Seattle unveils plan to get 500+ homeless people off the streets in 90 days

SEATTLE -- Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Wednesday will announce a strategy to bring more than 500 homeless people in off the streets over the next 90 days.

In a proposal that she outlined to members of the press on Tuesday, Durkan said the city has looked for creative ways to leverage existing resources and space to provide shelter for as many people as possible.

“Our ability to move people out of cars, off streets, and out of tents has been difficult,” Durkan said during a closed-door briefing. “Not just because there is less affordable housing, but because our shelter capacity has been running about 93% full.”

“We need to do better,” she added. “We really focused on what we can do short term to move more people off the streets to a safe place where they can get the support that they need.”

Durkan joined “Q13 News This Morning” on Wednesday to discuss her new proposal and the ongoing effort to address homelessness region-wide. See part 1 above and part 2 below.

If approved by the Seattle City Council, Durkan’s plan would increase shelter capacity in the city by 25% over 90 days, serving an additional 522 people each night. The plan places an emphasis on advanced shelters, where people coming in off the streets have access to services and a path toward stable housing.

Durkan emphasized Tuesday that leaving people on the streets and in unsanctioned encampments is not an option.

“We all see some of the worst imaginable conditions – people are living among rats, needles, human waste, and garbage. And every three days, someone without a home dies in this City. We must act to move people off the streets and into safer, more stable places where they can more easily access the services they need.”

Pending approval, the plan would expand enhanced shelter capacity to serve an additional 180 people, expand basic shelter services at City Hall by 120 beds, and create two new tiny home villages, among other investments.

The proposal to create 54 tiny homes in South Lake Union and 30 new tiny homes at 18th and Yesler would need to go through community outreach and engagement.

Durkan was asked whether she believes those neighborhoods will push back against the idea.

“None of this can be successful if we don’t partner together as a city,” she said. “People have to feel like they understand what’s happening, that they have a say in it, and that we’re showing up for them.”

In total, the plan to expand shelter services through 2018 would cost around $6.3 million. Durkan said long-term funding is still up in the air, particularly if voters decide to overturn Seattle’s newly passed tax on big business.