“The COVID crisis and the accompanying economic crises have created opportunities to buy places like hotels and also because we have new allies in Washington, D.C.,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine at a recent news conference.
The $ 1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, passed by Congressional Democrats and signed by President Biden, included $ 5 billion for homeless services with no limitations on how it is spent. King County plans on using roughly a quarter of the $ 437 million it expects to receive on homelessness, a problem that was considered a crisis long before the pandemic. Constantine has proposed a $ 102.5 million plan that includes $ 62.5 million to house at least 500 chronically homeless people and $ 40 million to create 400 temporary jobs for people experiencing homelessness.
“The money that’s been spent on assisting people exiting homelessness has been well spent, it’s been successful, people have exited homelessness,” said Dan Malone, director of the Downtown Emergency Services Center, which works with Seattle’s entrenched homeless. “The problem is more people have fallen into homelessness along the way.”
The King County plan also sets aside $ 5 million to create a parking lot for 50 RVs. The county will provide security, bathrooms and utilities. Critics say the measures are all from the same failed playbook.
“What Seattle [King County] is doing is that it’s all compassion and no enforcement,” said Chris Rufo of the Manhattan Institute. “We know from the past 10 years that this is a recipe for disaster.”
Homeless’ advocates blame rising rents, the pandemic and lack of affordable housing for the current crisis. But conservatives point out most of the chronically homeless suffer from addiction or mental illness. And some have moved to the Seattle area for the services and lack of drug law enforcement.
“What we’re doing is attracting homeless from all across the United States because the benefits are so good, because you can get anything you want,” said King County Councilman Reagan Dunn.
A recent McKinsey report concluded fully addressing homelessness in Seattle will require $ 1 billion over the next decade in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars already being spent each year.