Homelessness | KNKX

Homelessness

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Homelessness on the West Coast is rising to crisis levels at a time of historic economic growth and prosperity. Why? KNKX Public Radio and The Seattle Times' Project Homeless spent one year in a city that’s grappling with homelessness. What’s it like to live outside for months on end? What’s it like when tents come to your neighborhood? What new solutions can city leaders find?

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Tents under an overpass in Seattle
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Communities across the state will fan out this week to count people experiencing homelessness. The yearly point-in-time count is one tool local leaders use to measure the scope of the homelessness crisis.

Gov. Jay Inslee proposes $300 million in new funding for homeless services.
Will James / KNKX

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says he has a plan to cut the number of unsheltered homeless people in the state by half in two years.

The $300 million proposal would take money out of the state's "rainy day" fund. It would require approval from state lawmakers, whose session begins next month. 

Tents under an overpass in Seattle
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

A plan to create a new homelessness authority serving Seattle and King County cleared a key vote Thursday. But tensions over how the new authority will be governed could delay the creation of the agency into the new year.

West Coast cities, including Seattle and Portland, have had states of emergency in place around homelessness for several years. But many of those declarations are open-ended, lacking definitions of what it would take to end the crisis.

Tacoma City Council members settled on such a definition last week.

One issue in the system of services for those near or experiencing homelessness is inefficiency. A Denver-based developer is hoping his app can help solve that problem, and some service providers in Seattle are starting to experiment with it.

The City of Tacoma will be establishing a shelter site in the Hilltop neighborhood for people who are experiencing homelessness. 

The City Council voted Tuesday night to approve the emergency resolution.  It will provide "micro shelter units" next month for people who are currently camped nearby in People's Park. 

Candidates for Olympia mayor, Nathaniel Jones and Cheryl Selby, speak to voters at a forum on Oct. 17, 2019, at Garfield Elementary School.
Will James / KNKX

Homelessness is at the top of many voters’ minds across the Puget Sound region heading into the Nov. 5 general election.

A few years ago, frustration around the issue might have been contained in Seattle — where nearly two-thirds of residents disapprove of the response by Washington’s largest city, according to a recent poll by Crosscut and Elway.

Courtesy of C4 Innovations

Assessments that determine who gets help with homelessness sometimes prioritize white people over people of color, according to a study based in part on data from King and Pierce counties.

The results spurred one Seattle nonprofit to call for communities around the country to rethink how they triage people seeking help with housing. 

The Fourth Avenue Bridge encampment, as it was seen this summer before a number of residents left amid plans for a sweep.
Courtesy of the City of Olympia

Olympia City Council members canceled a sweep of a homeless encampment hours before it was scheduled to begin Wednesday morning, a victory for camp residents who waged a last-ditch effort to remain in place.

The decision came amid an outcry from residents of the encampment and their supporters, and assurances from leaders of a local church that they would help oversee the site.

Tents under an overpass in Seattle
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Seattle and King County leaders are taking a big step toward combining their response to homelessness. The mayor and county executive on Wednesday put forward legislation to create a new regional homelessness authority.

news that informs graphic
Adrian Florez / KNKX

Thanks in part to gifts from companies such as Amazon and Microsoft, Seattle-based Plymouth Housing is on its way to raising millions of dollars for hundreds of units of permanent supportive housing.

The nonprofit developer announced Tuesday it has raised $48.8 million toward a $75 million goal to build 800 units of permanent supportive housing over the next several years.

Dr. Hanna Eckstrom gives Ripper an eye exam. Her nonprofit, Seattle Veterinary Outreach, treats pets of the homeless.
Shauna Sowersby / KNKX

Things are moving fast for Dr. Hanna Ekström.

Only five months after getting her nonprofit license, Ekström has treated more than a hundred pets from the back of her mobile veterinarian unit — all while running her own private practice. She started Seattle Veterinary Outreach in December to treat pets of the homeless in her spare time.

news that informs graphic
Adrian Florez / KNKX

In recent years, there's been a big jump in the number of public school students experiencing homelessness in Washington. More than 40,000 students were identified as homeless in the 2016-17 school year, an increase of more than 30 percent from the 2012-13 school year.

A new performance audit from the state auditor's office recommends ways that school districts could do more to help those students, who often suffer significant academic setbacks due to their lack of stable housing.

Paul Ambros, chief executive of Plymouth Housing, speaks on May 15, 2019. He's surrounded by Mike Butler (left), a senior executive at Providence St. Joseph Health; Swedish chief executive Guy Hudson; and Premera Blue Cross chief executive Jeffrey Roe.
Will James / KNKX

Three of the Seattle region's largest health care organizations have announced a $15 million effort to fight chronic homelessness, framing the region's housing woes as a health care crisis that strains providers and raises costs throughout the medical system. 

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Adrian Florez / KNKX

Tacoma's homeless shelters turn away more than 130 people each day due to a lack of beds, city officials say. 

Tacoma's leaders hope to ease that shortage by expanding one of the city's most well-known shelters. City Council members agreed this week to spend $1.6 million renovating a warehouse at the Tacoma Rescue Mission into space for 50 more beds. 

Will James / KNKX

Tacoma has invested millions of dollars in a sanctioned encampment where caseworkers act to move people from homelessness to housing. 

With funding for the "stability site" set to run out at the end of the year, city officials are now weighing the program's cost and effectiveness as they consider how, and whether, to keep it open. 

Will James / KNKX

Results from Pierce County's annual census of the homeless population show a striking, but familiar, pattern around race. 

Will James / KNKX

How tense is the debate around homelessness in Olympia? Enough that business owners have sought to conceal their identities in a lawsuit against the city, saying they fear "retribution" from activists.

Eleven business owners sued the city late last year in a bid to halt the opening of a sanctioned encampment for unsheltered people.

Will James / KNKX

Years of rising rents and worsening homelessness have made housing a central topic in this year’s state legislative session.

The issue has gained urgency, and the attention of a broader swath of legislators, as housing problems have spilled out of Seattle into smaller cities from Tacoma to Aberdeen to Ellensburg. 

Lawmakers in Olympia are moving ahead with an array of reforms designed to stabilize housing markets and strengthen protections for tenants. 

Will James / KNKX

The City of Olympia, which saw a striking rise in visible homelessness last year, cleared away the last of its large unsanctioned downtown encampments Tuesday after resuming enforcement against illegal camping in late January.

In this May 9, 2018, file photo, Seattle City Council Members Mike O'Brien, Kshama Sawant and Teresa Mosqueda listen to public comment. On Monday, the three council members voted in favor of Sawant's human services director resolution.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

A divided Seattle City Council is trying to push forward in confirming the mayor's pick for human services director, but it's unclear what the next move is. The new director will have a big say in how the city tackles the ongoing homelessness crisis.

Will James / KNKX

At least three people have died of exposure in the week since an unusual pattern of winter weather began battering Western Washington.

On Monday, officials pointed to exposure deaths as a sign of the dire situation facing the region's homeless population.

An encampment along Rainier Avenue South in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood.
Will James / KNKX

Snowfall in Western Washington on Friday had cities, counties and nonprofits rushing to help unsheltered people survive the elements.

Will James / KNKX

Hundreds of young people in Washington who seek help for mental health problems or substance abuse end up homeless or near homeless after leaving treatment, according to a study that claims to reveal a lack of planning and coordination by the state.

Microsoft President Brad Smith speaks Thursday during a news conference in Bellevue to announce a $500 million pledge by Microsoft to develop affordable housing for low- and middle-income workers in response to the Seattle's housing crisis.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Microsoft has pledged to contribute $500 million for affordable housing efforts in Seattle and the Eastside. King County Council member Claudia Balducci says this is a significant down payment on addressing the housing crisis. She talked with All Things Considered host Ed Ronco about the announcement.

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Four homeless people who challenged the city of Puyallup's practice of clearing away encampments have agreed to a $40,400 settlement. 

Will James / KNKX

State lawmakers returning to Olympia for this year’s legislative session are arriving in a city transformed by homelessness.

Since August, the number of tents and makeshift shelters in Olympia’s downtown has grown tenfold, from around 30 to more than 300. Rarely, if ever, has a local city’s homelessness crisis seemed to accelerate so quickly.

In this photo taken Thursday, March 23, 2017, nurse Eric Seitz, right, talks with a camper living in a tent along a sidewalk, as part of a new team of outreach workers and police officers that go out and connect homeless people to services in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / AP file

Local leaders working to solve homelessness plan to spend 2019 on the administrative puzzle of joining Seattle and King County's service systems.

Will James / KNKX

A Thurston County judge ordered the City of Olympia to stop moving homeless people into a sanctioned encampment downtown just hours after the camp opened Monday.

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