Transitional Housing Funding to Be Preserved, For Next Year at Least

This post has been updated as of Tuesday night. 

As I reported last week, Mayor Ed Murray has vowed to maintain Seattle’s status as a “sanctuary city,” where city employees aren’t allowed to question people about their immigration status. This puts federal funding for city programs in jeopardy, since president-elect Donald Trump has said he will cut all federal funding to sanctuary cities. Pathways Home—Mayor Ed Murray’s plan to shift spending on homelessness away from service-heavy “transitional housing” (which includes housing for domestic violence victims and sober recovery housing) toward “rapid rehousing”  programs that consist mostly of short-term subsidies for housing in the private market—relies heavily on federal grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

For now, Mayor Ed Murray has proposed an HSD budget that assumes Pathways Home will move forward, and that funding for transitional housing programs serving immigrants, domestic violence victims, and veterans will be cut. However, council member Lisa Herbold reportedly has the votes and has come up with money in next  year’s budget  to maintain funding for those programs, at least temporarily, at a cost of $219,000. Herbold initially had the support of just two council members, regular allies Kshama Sawant and Mike O’Brien, but now council members Rob Johnson and Debora Juarez are on board.

Last week, Herbold argued that until the city knows whether rapid rehousing works to house the most vulnerable populations, including veterans, immigrants and refugees, victims of domestic violence, and those suffering from mental illness, the city shouldn’t eliminate their funding.

“Transitional housing programs serve high-need families that would not do well under rapid rehousing,” Herbold said. “I am supportive of moving towards more rapid rehousing and away from transitional housing, but I think it’s really important that we look at reinventing those current systems after we are certain that the new systems that we are proposing to use—in this case, rapid rehousing—[are] really able to meet the varied needs of vulnerable communities.”

The eight programs slated for cuts are:

• Six apartments for veterans at Bennett House in Columbia City;

• The Low-Income Housing Institute’s  Columbia Court, also in Columbia City, which provides housing for 13 refugee families;

• The YWCA’s Windermere House in the Central Area, which houses four families;

• Asian Counseling and Referral Services’ Beacon House, which includes six units for single adults;

• Dove House in the Rainier Valley, which houses vulnerable teenage girls in five units;

• Twenty-four units of transitional housing for young and single adults at four sites scattered across North Seattle;

• Six units at the Community Psychiatric Clinic’s El Rey center for people with mental illness;

• Six units for families at the YWCA’s Union Street apartments in the Central Area.

Herbold confirmed late Tuesday night that she had secured five votes to fund the transitional programs, and had patched together the funding from several different revenue sources. (A separate, $29 million housing bond proposal, which has the backing of six council members, would pay for capital projects like housing construction and seismic retrofits, not transitional housing projects that are already on the ground).

The council will meet to discuss the budget, including many other proposed changes, in council chambers at 9:30 tomorrow morning.

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