Last week, Seattle’s leaders rejected a proposed head tax on big business, with the money going to pay for homeless services. But an investigation by the Puget Sound Business Journal found the homelessness crisis isn’t being driven by a lack of money — there’s more than $1 billion spent annually on services for the homeless.
The problem is a lack of communication.
Bill Radke sat down with Emily Parkhurst, editor in chief of the Business Journal, to learn more.
“When you look at the money that’s being spent to essentially keep these people living on the street, it’s a staggering amount,” Parkhurst said. “And if that amount of money was then spent trying to get them homes … we’d have paid for it in three-and-a-half years.”
The article sums the problem up this way:
“Making the system more efficient would not only save hundreds of millions of dollars. It would also save lives. Ninety-one homeless people died in King County last year, and the region’s opioid crisis — the cause of many such deaths — is only getting worse ...
“It costs nearly four times more to care for and treat someone living on the street than it does to care for that same person once he or she has a home.”
But Parkhurst said it’s more complex than it seems at first. For instance, some homeless people aren’t ready to live on their own in permanent housing.
Still, the investigation showed there’s little tracking at agencies and nonprofits, and sometimes there isn’t any tracking at all.
The Seattle Police Department doesn’t track spending on homelessness services, Parkhurst said. And the Puget Sound Business Journal reported that there are nine police calls a day at the Union Gospel Mission, not counting other emergency responders such as medics.
“That’s more than one full-time police officer dedicated just to the Union Gospel Mission every day,” she said.
And since there’s little meaningful tracking, there’s little communication between service providers.
“I think you’ve got a lot of people in charge,” Parkhurst said. “Who is actually in charge?”
Read the full story via the Puget Sound Business Journal.