On Monday, the Seattle City Council is going to vote on legislation, proposed by council president Sally Clark, that would allocate $500,000 to dismantle the homeless encampment of Nickelsville and move its residents into other shelters and housing. (Anna wrote about the legislation a week ago over here.)
Clark's ordinance makes this curious claim in justifying itself:
“WHEREAS, New Orleans, Baltimore, and San Francisco have provided targeted outreach and engagement efforts to occupants of homeless encampments in their jurisdictions, and have been successful at moving most of the individuals off the streets and into stable, safe shelters, housing and services.”
This would lead the casual reader—at least those who've never visited Baltimore or New Orleans—to believe that these cities have almost no homeless people sleeping outside in encampments because they've all transitioned to "stable, safe shelters" or housing. And because of this success, we should emulate their efforts.
Yet, 2012 data from HUD (.pdf) shows the numbers of unsheltered homeless people in each New Orleans, Baltimore, and San Francisco to be 3,439 people, 1,795 people, and 3,371 people respectively. By comparison, the 2013 one-night count tallied 2,736 people sleeping outdoors, without shelter, in all of King County—a county with one million more residents than the largest city listed, San Francisco.
So maybe we shouldn't be emulating cities that seem to be failing even harder than us at addressing the needs of their homeless? Or, given the council's reticence to meaningfully address homelessness, perhaps we could at the very least rewrite that WHEREAS in the ordinance to be a little less deceptive? ("WHEREAS, the Seattle City Council acknowledges that it is sick of dealing with the city's homeless problem, and would love to quietly buy all homeless people a one-way ticket to Redmond...")