Screen capture showing panelists and BDC board members at our February 10,2021, meeting

February 2021 Legislative Panel Recap – Homelessness & Mental/Behavioral Health Coordination

Our February 10, 2021, meeting featured updates from and a panel discussion with four local legislators: State Senator Reuven Carlyle, King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and Seattle City Councilmembers Andrew Lewis and Dan Strauss.

Many thanks to our panelists and community members who participated in Q&A or otherwise engaged.

Following are shortcut links to specific portions of the meeting video:

(Link to PDF of BDC Panel Questions)

BDC Panel Discussion — Question 1
How can we reconnect with unhoused people who are lost in plain sight? Other than 911, how can we communicate back and forth between people in the neighborhood and the social service network and criminal justice diversion?

BDC Panel Discussion — Question 2
How can community feedback and lessons learned in Ballard contribute to improved “evidence-based” strategies? How can Ballard cultivate measurable evidence of successes that are readily felt and seen by our entire local community?

BDC Panel Discussion — Question 3
Federal support, regional homelessness authority, state-level behavioral health facilities/programs)

Community Q&A

  1.  Jean Darsie, Ballard Community Taskforce on Homelessness & Hunger — Amount of funding required to meet housing needs must and should come from federal government. Amount coming is good but not enough. State and local taxes can’t possibly handle all emergencies and essentials for these times. How can we help you get the money needed from federal government? What is your plan and how can we be involved?
  2. Rudy Pantoja, Ballard community volunteer/advocate,
    How do you define stability or when people are “ready” for services, whether you’re in a tent or a home. Many services are open even though people are saying there’s no in person during the pandemic (e.g., mental health, addiction and medical issues). So many women walking the streets on Aurora without outreach. Why don’t we see the social workers?
  3. Lara Zahaba, co-owner Stoup Brewing,
    Please clarify the types of organizations that REACH vs. Just CARE vs. the HOPE team are and the kinds of work that they do out in the community.
  4. Pam McCarthy, community member,
    She has a financial audit background and is distressed because she doesn’t see data surrounding the programs. HMIS system is very high level, disappointing. City auditor’s report on Human Services contracts was very instructive.
  5. Mike Stewart, Ballard Alliance,
    We have cases in Ballard of people who suffer from chronic mental health and addiction issues who have had housing/support and it hasn’t worked out. What do we do for these people?
    Small business owners are being very impacted by break-ins, damage, and theft, as well as violent crimes (punched in face, knocked down in street, etc). 17% of businesses in Ballard recently surveyed reported employees are leaving jobs because they don’t feel safe. Whta level of attention and resources is being focused on victims?
  6. Lara Zahaba,
    Local small businesses often feel that when they are expressing frustrations with these kinds of situations they face every day, assumptions are made lumping them in with big businesses or that they’re not compassionate toward unhoused. Reality is they are very community oriented, very focused on employees and community. Interested in being an active part of compassionate services and programs, so things work better for all people in the neighborhood.

Closing remarks

Additional Community Questions/Comments

We received many additional questions from community and appreciate everyone who reached out via email, Facebook, or Chat/Q&A on Zoom. Following are some of the additional questions we received:

  • There’s been more turnover on the REACH worker in Ballard.  Who is the current person and are they connecting with other service providers in the neighborhood?
  • Is Seattle considering a NYC method of providing a second citizen phone number for non emergency calls: is it 411 atop of 911?
  • CM Lewis, has it been decided which Seattle City homelessness programs will be retained by Seattle, and which will be transferred to the Regional Authority?
  • Will there be any severe weather shelters opening up closer to the Ballard area this week?
  • What happens if someone doesn’t want help? What are involuntary commitment standards? Theres a man who sleeps on the NW corner of [redacted] who wakes up screaming for about 30 mins every day. He’s lived there for about 5 months now. He doesn’t want help. What’s the plan?
  • Why not deploy National Guard to build new motel and authorized encampments where all outreach resources are brought to bear, halting criminals destroying other lives pushing crack/meth/ heroin and exploitation of addicts presently exempted from JAIL by council and prosecutors office? We need more than tiny houses built with volunteer labor.
  • If the city/county isn’t participating in the annual single-night count of people experiencing homelessness this year, how will that effect budgeting/services?
  • CM Lewis, as a former member of the City Attorney staff, and given Pete Holmes has announced his intention to run again — is there anything about the way Mr. Homes runs his office that gives you pause? Is he an effective City Attorney?
  • What do each of you panel members do to understand the needs of our homeless community?
  • I keep hearing the reasons why the panelists are limited in their actions, so is it really on me – a frustrated community member- to actually make a difference?
  • On the It Take a Village web site, a high-scale city map indicates specific sites earmarked for tiny house villages. Why doesn’t it provide addresses or allow for a zoomed in view to indicate the locations? Why are there no sites in all of NE Seattle? (Why are there so few encampments, period, in NE Seattle?)
  • We’re in a decent RV.  Need running water. Electricity, place to park, shower.  Thank you.
  • Are local politics between service providers, advocacy groups and elected leaders what have been limiting our potential to react quickly and to scale? How has LIHI become such a central power broker and who provides oversight or watchdogging?
  • I would really like to see some DATA.  I don’t want another recap of the issues, problems, and excuses.   I would like to see the following:
    1. How much was spent by King County and Seattle in 2020 to address homelessness?  By category.
    2. How was that money spent?  (Where can the public find detail list of vendors and $$)
    3. What are demographics?  I’m particularly interested in numbers of homeless not from KC and/or Seattle. How many homeless have been helped?  How do we measure value for money?
    4. Who is in charge of accountability for the money, and internal controls (at department level, not just auditors).  What reporting is there?  Has Councilmember Lewis read the City of Seattle audit report “Homeless Contracts Management Audit”?  If so, what was his reaction?
    5. What audit or financial reports are there for accountability of the hundreds of millions of dollars for these programs? What is the plan going forward?
    6. How can the public access HMIS (Homeless Management Information Systems) data?
  • Why is Washington State the only state to require clients to “opt in” to being identifiable in the HUD-required HMIS?  Note:  30% declined, thus our data is not very useful.
  • Homelessness in Ballard – as well as most of Seattle – – is at a crisis level beyond imagination!  we must have leaders who will summon the political will to invest in shelters, transitional housing and permanent housing options so that staying on the street is not an option.  Let’s build lots of Tiny Houses, get lots of motel rooms, let’s get serious about how we can support folks in need of mental health care, addiction treatment, etc etc.  The people of Seattle really would invest in this, as long as we get some regional help too!
  • Things are the pits here.  The homeless population is large and will probably grow.  How can we work together so that our efforts are most effective and helpful both to the unhoused and to the city departments that are dealing with the situation?