The campaign to change Seattle’s city charter and force the city to deal with homelessness differently — called Compassion Seattle — has gathered more than 64,000 signatures, leaders say. That’s nearly double what they need to put the issue to voters on November’s ballot, but the signatures still have to be verified by the King County Department of Elections, which won’t happen for a few weeks.
If voters pass it, Charter Amendment 29 would force the mayor to create 2,000 shelter or housing spaces within a year, budget 12% of the city’s general fund for homelessness and human services, and when there is enough housing or shelter for people living outside in Seattle, keep public spaces such as parks and sidewalks free of encampments. The amendment would only be in the city charter until the end of 2027.
The charter amendment, put forth by business groups but crafted with some input from homeless providers and labor leaders, is a way to legally force the City Council to fix homelessness after years of ramping up spending, said Jon Scholes, the head of the Downtown Seattle Association, one major booster of the measure. Business groups like Scholes’ have spent more than half a million dollars so far on messaging and gathering signatures.
“We think it’s time for the voters to have their say,” Scholes said. “The charter is a serious document and the crisis of homelessness on the streets is a serious emergency and we don’t think there’s a better place to address it.”
But the initiative has been divisive: Candidates for the mayoral primary in August are almost evenly split on it, some homeless nonprofit leaders and advocates have spoken out in favor of it, and others have started a campaign called “House Our Neighbors” to encourage Seattle voters to say no.
In fact, House Our Neighbors has alleged signature gatherers for Compassion Seattle have been misleading voters, and launched an effort to get anyone who felt they’d been misled to take their signature off.
“We have to come together to defeat this corporate, developer, and millionaire backed amendment which would codify sweeps into our city’s charter,” the campaign tweeted.
The Seattle city clerk said requests to withdraw signatures are still coming in, so they won’t have a final count until next week.