New Seattle budget preserves navigation team expansion

Seattle will expand the navigation team to help the homeless in the new $5.9 billion budget passed this afternoon.
That's despite a cut to the team passed by the City Council in a preliminary vote last week.

Navigation teams have had a measure of success in working with homeless people to get them off the streets. Mayor Durkan's budget expanded the size from 22 to 30 members and the City Council affirmed that in an 8-1 vote today.

But late last week council members took some of that money to give the social service workers who deal with the homeless a 2% raise -- their first in about a decade.

“We know that the navigation team can only be successful if they have folks to navigate homeless people to,” said Council Member Teresa Mosqueda explaining her earlier proposal to divert $500,000 from navigation team expansion.

“The turnover is simply too high, said case manager David Helde. “People aren't paid enough. it's too stressful. The rewards do not outweigh the benefits for that particular job.”

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Residential counselor Willow Maloney works two jobs.

"I make more in tips as a waitress in one shift than I do usually in one shift in DESC,” she said. “It's really hard to justify that when I'm paying my rent, but every day when I'm at work I am like how could I possibly do anything else with my time.”

Today, with the help of the mayor, council members identified $500,000 to satisfy both needs.

“City Council's budget can include the modest 2% inflationary adjustment for all contracts for homeless service provider agencies and include the full expansion of the navigation team,” Mosqueda said before the crucial vote.

Only one of the nine council members voted against the budget.

“This budget increases the police budget by over $70 million but it cannot find one dollar more for affordable housing,” said Council Member Kshama Sawant.

Mosqueda says the additional $500,000 will come from not renewing a tax break given to life sciences organizations.