On Wednesday, September 5, the Wallingford Community Council hosted the City of Seattle’s Homeless Navigation Team for a discussion on the homeless issue, unsanctioned camping, illegal camping, potential solutions to the homeless problem and a question and answer session.
We learned that the Navigation Team consists of only four field coordinators, eight police officers trained to perform outreach, eight contractor outreach workers, one outreach coordinator who is a mental health expert and one manager who oversees the entire team. The team reported that so far this year they have made over 7,000 contacts with only 675 persons put into shelters.
I was personally shocked to learn that the entire city has only a total of 16 people working on the critical homeless issues in the city. The officers themselves feel that they need more people and resources and encouraged all in attendance to contact their councilperson and Mayor to ask them to appropriate more funds and resources to help solve the critical homeless issue that we are facing today. The timing is perfect to contact these city officials since the city is entering into its annual budget process. Here is the the contact information for Councilpersons Johnson and O’Brien as well as Mayor Durkan:
- Mayor Jenny Durkan – 206-884-4000 – [email protected]
- Councilperson Rob Johnson – 206-684-8808 – [email protected]
- Councilperson Mike O’Brien – 206-8800 – [email protected]
The Navigation Team reported that so far this year, 35% of those campers approached by the team have opted for shelters, but 35% of those contacted have opted not to accept any services offered. The team also reported that 65% of those contacted accepted some assistance including case management, mental health support and/or employment support.
Most of the questions from the attendees were focused on illegal or unsanctioned camping as well as vehicle camping in public spaces like streets and parks. Questions and statements were focused on drug use, dirty needles, sanitary issues and other illegal activities. There was an extensive discussion regarding the growing volume of vehicle camping in Woodland Park.
Once again, the Navigation Team members urged the audience to write and call their city elected officials to ask for more resources to support their efforts. Everyone in the audience felt as though the Navigation Team is doing a wonderful job and appreciated their hard work and dedication but all felt that they were underfunded and understaffed. The team told the audience to utilize the Find It-Fix It app (a mobile phone app for reporting issues from graffiti to potholes to needles) to report illegal camping and crimes associated with these camps and to call 911 if they see any criminal activity associated with them as well.
At the end of the evening all of us had a better understanding of the mission and dedication of the Navigation Team, but many were not convinced that the city has developed the proper homelessness strategy. Many attendees felt that the city is not giving enough consideration to the tax paying citizens when dealing with the homeless problem. The dialogue was useful and everyone ended up having a greater understanding of the homelessness problem and an appreciation for the work that the Navigation Team is doing (as well as the fact that they need more resources.)
Editor Note: Comments provided by Navigation Team provided after initial posting are indented below. These comments were not available to the author at the time of posting:
My name is Will Lemke and I handle communication’s for the City’s Navigation Team. I was in attendance during last week’s Wallingford Community Council, representing the team (along with police officers and our outreach manager).
I want to flag 2 issues from the blog post recapping the event. First-the team is made up of 22 individuals, not 16. Mayor Durkan has dedicated funding to expand the team to 30 people. Both of these points were covered in the meeting by myself personally and not reflected in the piece. Secondly, the team did not appeal to community members directly for more funding, which is the characterization within the post. When questions from community members came in that were political in nature (i.e. asking about what the team needs/funding questions) I personally directed community members to refer such questions and comments to their elected officials, highlighting the upcoming budget discussion as a good time to do so. Contacting elected officials is the appropriate course to take when providing comment on the future of the team and funding questions.
Appreciate your attention to this