Steinbrueck: Housing Is the Key to Ending Homelessness (SHOCKER!)

Today the Seattle City Council is poised to authorize Seattle’s Human Services Department to “enter into a contract with a non-profit organization to provide outreach, engagement, case management, shelter, housing and other services to immediately move the campers at the encampment at 7116 W Marginal Way SW [Nickelsville] to appropriate shelter, housing and services.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise then that mayoral candidate Peter Steinbrueck sent out a press release this morning declaring that, “Sleeping Outside Is Not the Answer. Housing Is The Key to Ending Homelessness.”

Bold statement, to be sure.

In the release, Steinbrueck states that, “It’s not acceptable for anyone to sleep outside. It’s not safe. It’s not healthy;” “We must work regionally to ensure that anyone who needs a shelter bed, gets one;” and “We must provide necessary affordable housing, increase efforts such as YWCA’s Landlord Liaison Project, and work with landlords to secure rental housing.”

Steinbrueck goes on to say that tent cities are the result of people being turned away from “overflowing” shelters, and that it costs less to provide housing and support to “help a person out of homelessness,” than it does to pay for continual emergency care, hospital stays, mental health support and jail costs associated with chronic homelessness.

While the overall press release smacks of the obvious, Steinbrueck has a point on both items. The 2012 One Night County – conducted by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness – found a total of 8,830 living on the streets; of these people, only 6,236 were found in shelters or transitional programs – meaning 2,594 were “surviving outside without shelter.”

And when it comes to saving money, an effort like DESC’s 1811 “wet housing” is a good example. 1811 Eastlake provides housing for 75 formerly homeless men and women living with alcohol addiction – allowing them to drink in their rooms, while attempting to connect these people with services and ultimately kick alcoholism. According to the Coalition on Homelessness, “In the year after residency, residents reduced their visits to the emergency room, Sobering Center and jail, resulting in cost savings of more than $4 million;” and “The 40 people who were the highest users of Harborview and the Sobering Center cost $2 million annually until we got them into housing at 1811 Eastlake.”

*This post has been updated/fixed to reflect which bill the council will vote on today.

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