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The Durkan Digest: Investments That Make An Impact on the Homelessness Crisis

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Late last month, I announced my budget plan for Seattle for 2020. 

This past week, City Council began consideration of my proposal.  One of the core priorities of that budget is investing in addressing one of the great moral challenges of our time:  

Our homelessness crisis. 

Over the last year, as we’ve added more accountability, we’ve also started doing more than ever to help our neighbors who are living unsheltered. 

We are serving more households, moving more households to permanent housing, and preventing more people from becoming homeless in the first place. 

And while we have a long way to go, we are doing better in addressing the reality that people of color are disproportionately impacted and lag behind on services. 

The bottom line is: Our investments to address this crisis are having an impact. 

Sgt. Zerr from the Seattle Navigation Team and a man experiencing homelessness shake hands during an encampment visit

This spring, for the first time since 2012 – unlike other large cities on the West Coast – the annual Point in Time count showed a reduction in the number of people living unsheltered here in Seattle and King County. 

That is progress.  

We’ve made that progress by investing more in housing, and by increasing our 24/7 shelters with more services and case management by 88%. By centering it on what people actually need, we are moving more people out of homelessness than basic shelters ever have. 

Another way we’ve made progress is by investing to expand our Navigation Team – something my proposed budget continues to do. 

The Navigation Team is our City’s frontline response to the crisis of people experiencing homelessness. Since they were formed in 2017, they’ve moved people to safer place while also removing the most unsafe encampments that harm the people living in them and our communities. 

The Navigation Team literally saves lives. This February, when we had more snow than we’ve seen in half a century, the Navigation Team worked 24/7 to connect with hundreds of people and transport nearly individuals to shelters and warming stations across the city. 

A member of the Seattle Navigation team encourages a man bundled up in blankets and coats to come inside during the February 2019 snowstorm

And in the first six months of 2019, nearly half of all people experiencing homelessness who entered shelter through City-supported outreach did so based on a referral from the Navigation Team.  

That’s why I chose to sustain the expansion of the Navigation Team in my budget for 2020. Unfortunately, as they review my budget plan, some City Councilmembers are proposing to withhold investments for the Navigation Team, or cut its funding all together. If that happens, it will mean the City will have fewer resources to bring people inside to safer places, to address encampments and obstructions in the public right of way, and to remove trash, waste, and debris. 

A member of the Seattle Navigation Team comforts a woman living sheltered by placing his arm around her shoulder

The bottom line is simple: Cutting investments in the Navigation Team will take our City’s response to the homelessness crisis backwards.  

I don’t want to see that happen.  

Please continue to write me at, reach out via Twitter and Facebook, and stay up-to-date on the work we’re doing for the people of Seattle on my blog.


Mayor Jenny A. Durkan's Signature

This blog post is an excerpt from Mayor Jenny Durkan’s weekly newsletter. If would like more content like this, and a weekly recap of the exciting things happening in the City of Seattle, you can subscribe here.