Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Seattle-area companies give $10 million to fight homelessness

A man in slacks and a sweater walks down a city street. A Rolex watch ad is displayed in a store window. There is a person wrapped in blankets sleeping on the sidewalk. A grocery cart with personal itms is next to the sleeping person.
Ted S. Warren
The Associated Press file
A person sleeps next to a shopping cart on Jan. 31, 2021, as a pedestrian walks past a store-window sign advertising the opening of a Rolex watch store in downtown Seattle.

Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, billionaires Steve and Connie Ballmer and others said Thursday they'll spend more than $10 million to combat homelessness in Seattle.

The Seattle Times reports the money will help set up and fund a team from the new King County Regional Homelessness Authority, designed to triage and alleviate homeless camping in downtown and the city's International District.

Much of the money will help hire formerly homeless “peer navigators” who will meet with and develop plans for each person living homeless downtown. The initiative will also provide flexible funding to get people what they need to get housed.

Marc Dones, CEO of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, said the goal is to get to fewer than 30 people living outside in downtown Seattle — down from the 800 to 1,000 the authority estimates live there now.

Businesses and local leaders have been clamoring for months about a solution to chronic homelessness downtown, as tourists and employees gradually return.

“Time is a-wasting,” said former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, who reached out to many of these organizations to ask them to donate. “We are in a crisis."

The investment will pay for a team of 30 “peer navigators,” caseworkers who have been homeless and will focus on getting small groups of homeless people from the street to housing.

Seattle’s current method of clearing encampments largely relies on one organization to get someone off the street, another to shelter them, and sometimes a third to house them long term. Data says the success rate is poor, with most people leaving shelters to untracked destinations.

The Associated Press (“AP”) is the essential global news network, delivering fast, unbiased news from every corner of the world to all media platforms and formats. On any given day, more than half the world’s population sees news from the AP. Founded in 1846, the AP today is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. The AP considers itself to be the backbone of the world’s information system, serving thousands of daily newspaper, radio, television, and online customers with coverage in text, photos, graphics, audio and video.