Cities and counties in Washington state, including Seattle, need to better use data and monitor service providers in order to deal with the homelessness crisis, according to the state auditor.
The Washington State Auditor’s Office released a report on Nov. 15 on how local governments prioritize homelessness services and “manage provider performance,” looking specifically at the cities of Seattle and Spokane and counties of Snohomish and Yakima. Seattle’s “homeless department” spent $317 million on contracted services related to homelessness such as permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing and outreach to unsheltered people.
The city of Seattle spent most of its money on shelters, first, and then permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing and transitional housing. Spending on shelter increased to 36 percent in 2021 — during the pandemic, when there was a push to switch away from congregate shelter — and spending on permanent supportive housing decreased to 7 percent.
Federal agencies recommend that governments “develop long-term solutions to homelessness by investing in permanent housing.”
Those agencies also recommend that local governments use data, rather than politics, to make decisions about how to direct resources. Seattle made “limited use of data” to do it, as did Yakima County and the city of Spokane, according to the state.
In the case of Seattle, this was partly because, while the city department could offer technical assistance or an action plan, the mayor had to approve “drastic measures,” such as ending contracts.
Local group breaks with EPA
The Duwamish River Community Coalition (DRCC) announced it would cut financial ties with the federal government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) around its technical assistance grant program for places exposed to pollution from Superfund sites.
The DRCC said that there were “barriers and hardships” to maintaining the grant in a letter to Casey Sixkiller, the EPA Region 10 Administrator who is also the former deputy mayor of Seattle. Those included administrative burdens and increasing restrictions from the EPA on technical issues and community outreach. Another concern: funding. Grant funds have been held steady at 1980 levels, according to the press release.
While the DRCC will no longer accept technical assistant grant program funding, it will continue with the Community Advisory Group for the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund Site because that is not connected with EPA money.
The Seattle Animal Shelter will bring back “Kitty Hall,” a takeover of Seattle City Hall for an adoption event, on Dec. 13. Members of the public can meet kittens available for adoption, get information on renewing a pet license and take a photo with a friendly feline.
They can also cast votes for the “Kitty Council President,” so, get over there.
Read more of the Dec. 7-13, 2022 issue.