Proposal would narrow expansion of Seattle homeless response team

VIDEO: Battle over funding for team that clears out encampments

SEATTLE — A proposal from a Seattle city councilmember to reduce the amount of money Mayor Jenny Durkan intended for the Navigation Team may not go through, despite getting enough support on Wednesday.

The proposal, sponsored by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, would take $724,000 of a chunk of money the mayor allocated for the Navigation Team over two years and use it to fund 2 percent raises for human services workers at non-profits that contract with the city.

The mayor’s proposal would support nine new positions; Mosqueda’s would support six during the first year and add one more to make it seven in the second year.

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“That gave us a little flexibility to put some money on the front end for the human service providers,” she said. “So there’s no ‘cut.’ The total amount, you can see, continues to increase.”​​​​​​

Mosqueda is essentially proposing expansion of the Navigation Team at a slower rate than the mayor’s office intended.

“Why not keep what the mayor proposed?” KIRO 7 reporter Linzi Sheldon asked.

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“One way we can reduce the demands on the navigation team-- and our safety net system—is making sure that those who are providing critical services on the front end, those helping people to stay in shelters, getting into housing, making sure they're keeping a job or can find a job, those critical human service providers, help reduce the need and stress on the navigation team down the road.”

The mayor’s office was not happy.

Deputy Mayor Michael Fong sent an email to councilmembers, saying in part, "Because we have already expanded the team and filled the positions, this cut means losing positions that are helping to connect individuals with safer living alternatives such as the hundreds of new shelter beds and tiny houses that have opened this year. Mayor Durkan strongly opposes this cut and hopes the Council reverses this harmful decision to cut the Navigation Team."

Mike Stewart, executive director of the Ballard Alliance, wasn't happy with the idea, either.

“The Navigation Team is really important,” he said. “In fact, I would say critical. And I think it's also critical that it is continued to be funded fully.”

He represents residents and businesses, many of whom have seen the Navigation Team at work here in Ballard Commons Park.

“We're concerned that—if those funds are now cut, the wait times to get service from the Navigation Team are going to be even lengthier,” Stewart said. “Those wait times not only affect the individuals who are unhoused and in need of services. They also affect the residents and the businesses that live in an area where there is an illegal encampment.”

But Mosqueda said nothing is final until Monday.

“We are going to, throughout this weekend, working with the mayor and council, find the solution to make sure that our Navigation Team is kept whole and that we can invest in human service providers,” she said. “That will require us to get creative and look for additional funding.”

According to Mosqueda’s office, the Navigation Team would still receive $1.6 million for 2019, even under her current proposal.