[Hpn] City OKs spending to assist homeless;Seattle Times;10/30/01
Morgan W. Brown
Tue, 30 Oct 2001 10:17:25 -0500
Tuesday, October 30, 2001
Seattle Times <http://seattletimes.nwsource.com>
Local News section
City OKs spending to assist homeless
By Beth Kaiman
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Seattle City Council yesterday agreed to the city's largest single
effort to get homeless people off the street, a plan that calls for adding
170 shelter beds, 70 units of transitional housing and, if voters approve a
tax levy next year, 200 units of permanent and transitional housing.
Over the next 1-1/2 years, the plan would cost $2.75 million. Later, it
would cost many millions more if the housing levy is approved.
"I think this does send a loud and resounding statement to the homeless
people in our community that we care," said Councilman Peter Steinbrueck,
who worked for months to broker an agreement that the city could afford and
advocates for the homeless could support.
In exchange for the council's approval of new spending on shelter and
housing, backers of Initiative 71 have agreed to drop their ballot issue,
which would have gone before voters next year.
Should the council fail to follow through with the $2.75 million plan,
however, the initiative would go back on the ballot. A King County Superior
Court judge approved the arrangement last week.
Initiative 71 would have given the city 18 months to add 400 shelter beds to
the 2,300 now available and increase spending on services for the homeless
by 20 percent. City officials estimated the annual cost at $2.7 million and
predicted millions more would have to be spent to build shelters.
Even city officials who have supported unprecedented spending on the
homeless saw the proposal as too costly for tough financial times. And they
worried that if the initiative appeared on a 2002 ballot, it would compete
with renewal of the low-income-housing levy, already scheduled for the
The amount of the levy proposal has not been determined.
People such as Deputy Mayor Tom Byers, housing Director Cynthia Parker and
Steinbrueck also objected to the initiative's emphasis on emergency shelter.
The city in recent years has directed money at longer-term housing as well
Officials began talks with I-71 backers months ago, and in recent weeks,
Steinbrueck made the issue a central cause.
And as the economy continued to worsen, I-71 sponsors realized that success
at the polls was hardly a given.
"We're taking a sure thing here instead of a roll of the dice," said Timothy
Harris, an I-71 organizer and executive director of Real Change, a newspaper
about homelessness. "It just makes sense now, and this will result in better
services for people on the street."
The city will spend $1 million toward the shelter beds and related services,
with $1.4 million in private contributions expected.
The first beds should be available early next year.
The 70 transitional units for singles and families will be funded with $1.75
million in federal money the city has received and at least that much in
grants and private contributions, city officials predict.
The spending does not add to the city budget. The money had already been set
aside for the Office of Housing but had not been spent.
Millions of dollars in city funds would need to be approved by voters for
the 200 housing units.
The resolution approved yesterday also calls for the council to work on
developing a new hygiene and day center for the homeless.
Beth Kaiman can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-2441.
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Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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