The Seattle Times editorial board asked the candidates for Seattle mayor and the city council’s two citywide positions how they would approach the city’s homelessness crisis, if elected.
Below are the responses from the candidates for the council’s 8th District seat, incumbent Teresa Mosqueda and challenger Ken Wilson, an engineer.
Q: What three actions would you take within the first 100 days to create a more effective city response to homelessness?
Teresa Mosqueda: I will advance policy solutions that recognize most folks who are living unsheltered need holistic health care and case management services, many have experienced trauma, and that too many of us in Seattle are just one paycheck or health crisis away from being unsheltered ourselves. As your city council member, I will work with social service providers and case managers to invest in “Housing First” models that provide a safe place to live, a warm bed, a shower, a place to rest and recover. This includes supporting permanent supportive housing and shelters for individuals, women, families and seniors who may have co-occurring disorders.
I pledge to work with my colleagues in public health and human services to enact proven best practices so we can arrive at health-based solutions for our homeless community that: Redirect city funding to provide additional medical providers, case managers, mental health providers and substance abuse counselors to help get individuals the care they need. Create “Warm Handoff” hotlines and a 24-hour nurse line for shelters and supportive housing locations to get the targeted assistance needed: open beds, housing options, prescription refills, appointments, aftercare, wound care, etc. Add even two more Health One mobile health units to provide low-acuity treatment on demand to the unsheltered in the 5 ladder areas that our fire department serves. Buy apartments, hotels and other multifamily structures on the market to convert to housing and shelter options; stand up more tiny house encampments to get folks into sanctioned encampments with services. While we build housing and open more shelter options, scale up sanitation services, like public restrooms, handwashing and more garbage pickup around our city.
Kenneth Wilson: First and foremost, I will work to immediately support the enforcement of existing laws and increase public safety. It is not compassionate for the homeless or the city to continue allowing unplanned homeless camps in parks, public properties, schools and along the edge of roads. Second, I will aid our area’s substantial inventory of nonprofits (Union Gospel Mission, Mary’s Place Compass Housing Alliance, Facing Homelessness, Salvation Army, United Way, JustCARE, Reach, local parishes and ministries) and current city and county service providers to coalesce in their immediate mission to commence transitions and improve communication and sharing of practices between resources. Third, I will work to jump-start permanent community assets for long-term homeless rehabilitation, such as a facility on community property at Northgate for homeless rehabilitation and to inventory city/county owned property such as on First Hill’s Harborview Hall that may be currently underutilized and could be effectively/efficiently leveraged to meet added needs. This step would utilize funding from the $239 million in federal aid coming to Seattle through the Federal American Rescue Plan. It gives those homeless in need a real plan, a realistic 18 to 24 month time to transition, pride in themselves for a path forward and steps toward productive employment with value to the community.
Q: What specific data would you use to measure success?
Mosqueda: The data to measure success is how many open units are available, how many have been filled and how equitably we are housing unsheltered neighbors. We must look at the data of who we are serving to ensure marginalized people are seeing adequate levels of service. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color), immigrants and refugees, and LGBTQ+ folks are at heightened risk of homelessness, and we must ensure our housing solutions are equity forward.
I believe the King County Regional Homelessness Authority’s dashboard on homelessness data is a tool we could use as inspiration for a Seattle-specific dashboard of housing solutions data collection.
Wilson: Specific data used to achieve and verify performance, cost and objectives include:
- Number housed including their transitional housing means (shelters, tiny homes, rented space), number on the street and place of origin to help understand our city’s challenges.
- Number receiving medical assistance, number continuing to receive checkups after one year, working to assure they are not “lost” in the system.
- Number applying for other housing assistance such as Section 8, waiting listed and their duration in the process.
- Number receiving job training.
- Number obtaining jobs and number obtaining jobs after job training.
- Number that “graduate” out, finding independent housing and work, as well as data at one year, two years and three years, ending at four years.
- Number that returned to the street and responsible teams’ statement of reasons.
Create a classification system that changes as need and reliance level change, allowing easy movement and monitoring between levels of service for tracking/utilization/validation of services and modifications needed.
Q: How would you hold programs and providers accountable for results?
Mosqueda: JumpStart progressive tax revenue will play a big role in solving our housing and homelessness crisis. JumpStart Seattle dedicates around $135 million a year for the next 20 years for housing, and last week I passed legislation to move forward with transparency and accountability measures for this funding.
To center good governance and accountability, these measures will ensure the funds of JumpStart are distributed in alignment with the housing priorities of the progressive JumpStart legislation.
Preventing and ending homelessness in our city will require funding and multifaceted housing solutions of all types, especially low income and Permanent Supportive Housing, as well as building strategies to mitigate and address displacement at the same time. Tracking revenue spent and data as King County’s Regional Homelessness Authority has done would create a benchmark for success that is easily accessible to community stakeholders.
Wilson: Our requirement is to create lasting solutions through planned goals and analysis with measured results. Programs and providers are held accountable by advanced planning to create objectives for performance, cost and time. Managing the programs’ accountability starts with valuable first interactions at kickoff with partners regarding the scope of work and shared commitment, as well as creating communication plans and monthly progress reporting to verify our resources are used concurrently through these many providers for maximum impact now. Meeting frequency is established with providers to maintain commitment and focus, including a systematic validation and sharing of practices to quickly allow for replacement of services and providers that are not effectively or efficiently able to achieve planned goals. Proper management of our limited resources and their use in establishing working solutions, long-term responsibility and disciplined progress control is key in accountability to the Seattle community and those who ae homeless and in need.