Mayor acknowledges ‘pretty shocking' performance by homeless groups with taxpayer money

by: KIRO 7 News Staff Updated:

After what the mayor calls a “pretty shocking” decade of patchwork performance, he’s mandating that homeless shelters and programs now prove results if they want part of the City of Seattle’s $30 million funding.

Mayor Ed Murray announced on Wednesday that for the first time in 10 years, the city would ask such services and programs to bid for such funding, which is generated by tax payers.

Over the years, Seattle has added more and more homeless programs to help combat an issue that is now considered by the city to be a crisis.

For a report on KIRO 7 News live at 5:30 p.m., we ask how the programs will be enforced. Watch on-air or here.

But the current, mishmash system has doled out dollars without an integrated approach, according to Murray.

“That's a pretty shocking statistic that this city let a decade go by before it looked at if it was getting the performance it needed,” Murray said. “We are taking our system from a series of disconnected, boutique services, to a coordinated effort to connect people with what they need and get them into permanent housing.”

Under the revamped program, agencies that want funding must submit an application and meet the following standards:

  • Provide exits to permanent housing
  • Have a lower time of stay
  • Low return to homelessness
  • Show that they serve a number of homeless people
  • And use as many of their beds as possible

Katherine Lester, the director of the Human Services Department, says with a more integrated approach will be a focus on addressing racial disparities and prioritizing five specific goals: increasing the number of people being referred to permanent housing; reducing the average length of a stay in shelters; reducing the number of people who return to the streets; reducing the number of people becoming homeless; and better utilization of current shelters.

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The new bidding process for homeless programs shows priorities are shifting from getting people temporary housing to finding permanent housing.

More than 8,000 people are experiencing homelessness in Seattle, according to the city. Of those, 4,619 are sheltered and 3,857 are unsheltered.

The city started its Pathways Home program to address the issue, which has resulted in increased response, investing in programs that work, and addressing racial disparities, according to the city’s website.

The city will spend about $50 million total on homeless this year. Fifty percent of that goes to emergency response, 34 percent to permanent housing support, 9 percent to keep people in homes, and 7 percent on services.


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