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homeless

Josephine Ensign, director of the University of Washington's Doorway Project for homeless youth
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

There's a lot of money in Seattle these days. Companies like Amazon and Starbucks are based here, and construction has been booming. But our city has one of the biggest homelessness problems in the country.

Our listeners are wondering about that disconnect. And they've been asking us questions about the issue.


Head tax opponents and supporters crowd Seattle City Hall on Tuesday, June 12, 2018.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Bill Radke talks to two businesses that opposed the head tax about what solutions they're hoping to see, now that the head tax has been repealed. What do Seattle businesses need to do now? What's their responsibility?

Kailyn Nicholson, center, joins in on a chant led by Emerson Johnson, left, on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, inside City Council Chambers at City Hall in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

It was called a head tax, but maybe it should have been called the Robin Hood tax.


Caitlin Lee raises a Tax Amazon sign in front of Seattle City Council members on Monday, May 14, 2018, during a head tax vote at City Hall in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

It only took the Seattle City Council four weeks to double-back on their vote to tax big businesses in order to pay for affordable housing and homelessness services.


Colleen Echohawk-Hayashi and Gyasi Ross.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

You know the drainage pipes you sometimes see sticking out from underneath a road? They're called culverts. And they're creating a division between Washington tribes and state attorney general Bob Ferguson. The sovereign nations claim that Ferguson is failing to uphold their treaty rights; in response, he's escalated the lawsuit to the Supreme Court of the United States.


The Union Gospel Mission works with Operation Nightwatch to fill up its spare beds at the end of the night.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Seattle has a hiring clause that prevents it from giving money to organizations that discriminate. But it also appears that the city knew about the Union Gospel Mission’s hiring practices when it contracted with the organization to clear out the Jungle.

KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

The next time you walk by Third Avenue and James Street in downtown Seattle, you might notice a cluster of bronze leaves on the street.

They bear the names of some of the homeless people who have died over the last 15 years.


Ericka Frodsham 2018
Mike Kane for KUOW

In 2015, photographer Mike Kane met Ericka, a sex worker on Aurora Avenue North in Seattle. Ericka was selling sex to support her heroin and meth addiction, and she was so weak she believed she could be dead within a year. She was estranged from her three young daughters and spent many nights on the street. 


KUOW/Amy Radil

Backers of the campaign to repeal Seattle’s “head tax” won’t say how many signatures they’ve gathered, but they’re optimistic.


Homeless RV
Flickr Photo/A. Kwanten (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/Bv6MSo

This year’s point-in-time count of people living without homes in King County showed yet another increase of those living on the streets. 

But among people who are experiencing homelessness, the sharpest uptick — by a whopping 46 percent — came from people increasingly living in their cars, RVs, and vans. This year, vehicle residents made up more than half of the people counted who were living outside. 

Carol Duescher currently lives in her car.
KUOW photo/David Hyde

The number of chronically homeless people in King County is up 28 percent this year, according to the latest look at the homeless population, which was released today.  

Compare that to the experience in Utah, which slashed chronic homelessness over a 10-year period. "I think Seattle could do the same thing, if that was a priority," said Joe Camacho, who lives in a shelter near the Space Needle.


Homeless encampment along a road in the Sodo area of Seattle.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Bill Radke talks to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan about the annual report out today showing a 4 percent increase in the number of homeless people in King County.

Volunteers count the number of people experiencing homelessness during the annual King County Point-In-Time count on Friday, January 25, 2018, in Pioneer Square.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

On a single night in January, more than 12,000 people were counted as homeless throughout Seattle and King County.


The entrance to a homeless shelter on Third Avenue in Seattle.
KUOW File Photo/John Ryan

Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan wants to significantly increase shelter capacity for people experiencing homelessness in the city over the next three months.

Using money from the sale of a city-owned property in South Lake Union, Durkan is proposing increasing the number of shelter spots available by 25 percent by the end of August.


Homeless families outside a shelter in downtown Seattle
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Seattle made some big shifts in its approach to homeless services last year, including signing new contracts that gave the city the ability to ding service providers that don’t get enough people into permanent housing.

For the first time in more than a decade, the city competitively bid roughly $34 million in service contracts, which included “pay for performance” measures.

Now the city has softened on this policy. Providers who don’t meet the standards in the first quarter of this year will get a pass. 

Downtown Seattle accounts for more than half the city's construction investments, according to DSA.
KUOW Photo File/Megan Farmer

The bloom is off the boom.


Seattle Police Officer and Navigation Team member Brad Devore offers services and shelter to campers
KUOW photo/Kate Walters

On a sunny May morning, the Alaskan Way Viaduct throws long shadows over a line of tents.

This cluster of tents is here illegally, one of about 400 unauthorized encampments in Seattle. It’s been cleared nine times this year, according to the city, including once this week.

Sara Rankin, director of Seattle University's Homeless Rights Advocacy Project.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

One big question people have asked in the conversation about homelessness and affordability is: can we trust the city to spend this money effectively?


The entrance to a homeless shelter on Third Avenue in Seattle.
KUOW File Photo/John Ryan

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan didn't veto the head tax passed by the Seattle City Council earlier this week, but in a letter to council members last night, she criticized the council's spending plan for the new tax.

In this Oct. 5, 2009, a driver goes past a large condominium under construction in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Bill Radke looks at the debate over changing Seattle's zoning laws to allow for more apartments, condos and town homes, and fewer single-family houses. We're joined by Susanna Lin, a board member of Seattle Fair Growth, and Roger Valdez, director of Seattle For Growth.

Valerie Nagle, who lives in her van: 'It would be huge, if there was enough housing, affordable housing.'
KUOW photo/David Hyde

With Seattle adding tens of millions of dollars to fight homelessness, people around the city want to know: Is that money being spent effectively?

Valerie Nagle is one of them. She lives in her van.


Seattleites packed a City Hall meeting on Monday, where a vote on the contentious head tax was expected.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

A compromise has been struck over the controversial proposed Head Tax by the Seattle City Council. Over the weekend Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez worked with Mayor Jenny Durkan to come up with a plan they could both support. The new plan would raise an estimated $50 million a year instead of the original $75 million.

Volunteers count the number of people experiencing homelessness during the annual King County Point-In-Time count on Friday, January 25, 2018, in Pioneer Square.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Is Seattle the sort of place where, if you can’t afford it, there’s no room for you?


Sara Bates helps feed homeless people at Edible Hope Kitchen, a ministry of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Ballard.
KUOW Photos / David Hyde

Seattle residents are fighting over homelessness and what to do about it.

When we asked Ballard resident Sara Bates why she believes the issue has divided the community so much, she responded with this story and a question of her own for her neighbors.


Courtesy of Kellie Sevier

Last month, 27-year-old Sabrina Tate died in Seattle. She was living in an RV in a city-sanctioned safe lot in the SODO neighborhood.

For years, Sabrina had been homeless and addicted to heroin. The cause of her death isn't fully known yet, but she had developed an infection in her legs from years of drug use. 

Seattle Symphony musicians Eric Jacobs and Danielle Kuhlmann have some fun with Giovanny, the four-year-old son of Taylor Joffre, before a sharing session for the Lullaby Project at Mary’s Place in Seattle, Monday, May 7, 2018.
KUOW Photo/Dan DeLong

The Seattle Symphony will perform five original lullabies at a free Mother's Day concert this weekend. And each lullaby was composed with help from a parent staying at a local homeless shelter.

It's part of the symphony's effort to address homelessness in its own way. 

KUOW/Amy Radil

A King County audit criticized local efforts to fight homelessness as fragmented this week, saying no single entity has enough decision-making power to make an impact. Against that backdrop, Seattle and King County officials are now promising to streamline how they deliver homelessness services.


Tents are shown as people gathered to protest the sweeps of homeless camps in November, 2017, at City Hall in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Let May 2, 2018, be known as the day that Seattle Nice died.

Construction continues on a new apartment complex on Monday, March 12, 2018, at the intersection of Aurora Avenue North and 109th St., in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Seattle has an affordability and housing problem, and the City Council is considering asking businesses to chip in. A proposal in the works would tax Seattle businesses with at least $20 million in taxable gross receipts 26 cents per employee for every hour they work.

The city estimates that an employee tax would raise about $75 million a year.

Should businesses pay more? We debate the pros and cons with Seattle City Councilmember Mike O'Brien and Seattle Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Marilyn Strickland.

Fifth grader Nina Perry at KUOW Public Radio in Seattle
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Eleven-year-old Nina Parry noticed a man sitting outside her neighborhood QFC. She and her mom brought him food. But there were others.

“Ever since I can remember, I've been seeing homeless people asking for money or just sitting in the streets being cold,” she said.


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