City Calls Nonprofit's Closure of 15 Homeless Shelters an Unnecessary "Advocacy Move"

Comments

1
"The organization offers shelter but does not fund case managers to help people find permanent housing, as many shelter services do. "

I've heard this before as a critique of SHARE. To a lot of people this isn't a way for SHARE to stretch their funds and provide needed emergency shelter to more people, but SHARE "endorsing" the "homeless lifestyle". Add to this SHARE's theatrical protests like camping in front of then-mayor Nickel's house and I see why the city would have a contentious relationship with them.
2
Scott Morrow needs to pay his mortgage somehow.
3
How do we do this in a way that's sustainable, asks Tim Harris (who can't seem to do a single interview without at least one F bomb)?

Easy. Immediately stop funding SHARE, and divert that funding to another organization that can run shelters and is also focused on moving people into permanent housing, versus one whose mission is to run commune-style, "self-governing" communities. Public funding should NOT be supporting that.

It's time that funding is tied to outcomes. Any other approach is indefensible and ineffective. We've found that out the hard way in Seattle.
4
On the other hand, Jason Johnson, deputy director of the city's Human Services Department is a bid deluded if he things anyone is REQUIRED to contract with the city to provide services. There's no fraud here. If Jason Johnson wants to obtain these services for the price he (not SHARE) thinks they're worth, he can find somebody else to do them. Or the City can do it themselves. And if neither of those are options? Well guess what then, Jason Johnson misunderstands the market for these services and better get a reality check about how much they cost.
5
... oops...

... a bit deluded if he thinks...
6
I'm having a hard time understanding why it had to come to a complete shutdown if the problems have been ongoing. Why couldn't they scale down their services to something they could afford to run instead of going into debt and having to shut down everything? The cuts in the county funding that they're complaining about are fairly small relative to the total funding they get. they sound like crybabies.
7
As a person who does human services contracting with county agencies, this strikes me as either extremely deceptive or extremely poor management. There is a typical budget created with overhead (space, insurance, telecom, FTE for admin), and then a per-unit cost- such as a $/bed/night. That gets complicated because a women or family shelter bed is more expensive than a men's bed, and obviously if you are using multiple sites the costs may not be uniform. But given that this is what they do, none of those complications should be out of their reach. I am unsure how a non-profit contractor is able to take on debt. Do they mean they were unable to meet their deliverables on cost-reimbursement contracts, and went out of pocket? Otherwise there really shouldn't be a way to run up debt.
8
Seems to me the solution to all this finger pointing is simple. SHARE's costs are $5.50 per person per night. The City could just hire another shelter provider to take over the 15 SHARE shelters and pay the provider the $24 to $90 per person per night that it would cost. Problem solved.
9
SHARE should charge their guests - a lot of homeless can pay $1-5 per nite. Or they could ask for sponsorships. Or they could kick-starter campaign? Or GoFundMe? it's not that much money to raise. Maybe the stranger could start if off?
10
Heidi Groover, you might be interested in the letter that Catherine Lester, the HSD director, sent to SHARE yesterday. According to Lester, the city wasn't notified by SHARE until yesterday that it was (allegedly) having financial problems. SHARE failed to notify the city about this while planning to close down 15 shelters? Something smells very fishy.

The letter reads as follows:

March 30, 2016
Michele Marchand SHARE Organizer shelters@sharewheel.org

Dear Michele,

Thank you for your recent correspondence about the SHARE/WHEEL’s financial situation and your decision to close shelters funded by the City of Seattle.

The City of Seattle’s Human Services Department (HSD) invests $610,932 in shelter support to SHARE/WHEEL. This investment funds 90,555 bed-nights per year (serving roughly 249 people every night). HSD had not received any communication from SHARE/WHEEL until today requesting additional funding nor indicating an inability to continue to provide City services at the level agreed to in your 2016 contracts. It is the City’s expectation that SHARE/WHEEL shelters funded by the City remain open 365 nights a year, and that individuals experiencing homelessness have access to those beds. It is also the City’s expectation that participation in advocacy and protests are not a requirement for people to access shelter. At this time, the City does not have any additional funding for SHARE/WHEEL shelter operations or the funds to pay any of SHARE/WHEEL’s debts. Additionally, the City will not reimburse you for nights you choose to close City-funded shelters.

SHARE/WHEEL’s funding is part of HSD’s 2016 investment of more than $50 million to assist single adults, youth, families, domestic violence survivors, seniors and veterans currently experiencing or at risk of homelessness. These dollars provide more than 1,800 emergency shelter beds each night that serve 14,000 unduplicated individuals a year; pay for food and meals services; support day centers that provide showers, laundry, and a safe place to rest; and fund programs that can help people find jobs and permanent housing. Housing is expensive in Seattle, but our successful rapid rehousing programs pay for move-in costs, utilities and rent. HSD also funds proactive programs that help people stay in their homes and avoid eviction.

Our region’s current needs outweigh shelter capacity, leaving too many seniors, families and individuals sleeping on the street and in vehicles. The 2016 One Night Count conducted on January 29th found that 4,505 individuals (including 29 children) were living outside of shelters in King County, a 19% increase from 2015 (after a 21% increase from 2014). The majority of these individuals were counted in the City of Seattle.

This led Mayor Murray to take action by declaring a “State of Emergency” and allocating new resources to address the homelessness crisis. The additional dollars will provide resources in three major areas—addressing critical policy issues, creating additional shelter capacity, and funding innovative and proactive strategies.

The City is currently analyzing all homeless investments and expanding data collection to ensure resources are targeted at the most effective strategies and agencies. Seattle is also launching a new effort to reduce administrative burden on agencies by allowing non-profit partners to provide a range of services under portfolio contracts. This progressive engagement model combines a portfolio of services aimed at making homelessness rare, brief, and one-time, including diversion, shelter, rapid rehousing, housing search and employment navigation. Administrative efficiencies will be created through a single contract for combined services.

To quote your organization’s messaging, “Without shelter, people die.” Therefore, we cannot officially condone any attempt to take away a roof overhead and an indoor space from people experiencing homelessness. The City of Seattle is making every effort to create safe indoor spaces for people experiencing homelessness. This threat of closure goes against these efforts and cannot be supported. Closure of these shelters conveys a lack of partnership in the effort to end homelessness in this region.

I hope your organization will reconsider your actions this week, and work with your funders on resolution while keeping your programs operational.

Sincerely, Catherine Lester