THE PEOPLES PARTY POSITION ON THE HOMELESSNESS AND HOUSING CRISIS
Seattle is in a housing crisis. There are 3,000-plus people who have no place to sleep every single night. People are being pushed out of the City of Seattle by sky-rocketing rents, unaccountable development, and harmful policies like homelessness sweeps. Nikkita Oliver and the Peoples Party are ready to proactively address these crises by 1) focusing on Seattleites’ human right to housing rather than corporate profits; 2) seeking solutions to the homelessness and housing crises that address fundamental equity issues; and 3) respecting and encouraging equitable development that privileges all Seattleites’ human right to housing.
The United Nations recognizes the human right of everyone to have adequate housing. It is high time that Seattle does too. Responding to this crisis, however, takes deftness and a willingness to utilize a variety of approaches, both short-term and long-term. It requires direct and consistent communication with all of Seattle’s neighborhoods and communities to let them know what steps the City is taking. Finally, it requires the City to actually act on the recommendations made by researchers regarding best practices for Seattle’s unique circumstances and context.
First, a few facts about Seattle’s homelessness crisis. The number of people living outside is rising: Seattle has over 3,000 people on the streets every night and ranks fourth in the nation for homelessness behind New York, L.A., and Las Vegas. The City of Seattle has the fastest increasing rent of any city nationwide and ranks eighth in cost of rent. However, Seattle does not have enough shelter to meet the needs of unsheltered people. Currently, some shelters are only accessible to certain people, like single men, single women, or families, and there is no guarantee the City’s available shelter beds match the needs of people living outside. As a result, many people are left with nowhere to sleep. The City’s current policy of sweeping people living unsheltered does not address the root causes of homelessness, but instead harms vulnerable people and ensures instability. People cannot break the cycle of homelessness when the City of Seattle actively destroys their belongings and sweeps the same locations over and over again.
Nikkita and the Peoples Party are ready and willing to utilize a multitude of approaches to address this human rights’ issue and include the community every step of the way. Nikkita seeks to utilize a utilitarian, multi-tiered approach to effectively ending homelessness in Seattle. Responding to Seattle’s homelessness crisis requires an intersectional approach because there is no magic pill, no single solution. Nikkita and the Peoples Party believe that intentional transparent and accountable dialogue with communities and neighborhoods will help find localized solutions that work for Seattle and all of its residents.
Position: The San Francisco model for Navigation Centers, which are places where people can take a shower, use the bathroom, access laundry and dining facilities, and store their belongings, will improve the lives of people living outside in Seattle. Importantly, Navigation Centers include round-the-clock case management, mental and behavioral health services, and connections to benefit programs and housing. In order to ensure success, it is imperative that neighborhoods understand and agree that Navigation Centers should become part of their communities. Ultimately, there must be neighborhood buy-in in order for Navigation Centers to successfully serve people in need.
Action agenda: In order to locate and open Navigation Centers, Nikkita would reach out equitably to all communities, including Seattle’s communities to the North, as potential sites for these centers.
Position: There is no reason for any person to sleep in a homeless encampment. It is important to bring everyone inside in the short-term. Sanctioned encampments are not the policy solution to unsheltered homelessness because the City needs to bring people inside. However, shelters with 24/7 access and storage that accommodate a variety of needs are critical. Moreover, as Barb Poppe pointed out, the “number of places…that were just nighttime-only shelters” makes it “very difficult for people who are staying in them to get back on their feet, because they’re always in transit.” City-funded shelters should have very few barriers for the Seattleites who utilize their facilities.
Action agenda: Nikkita would ensure that people living unsheltered have access to shelters that recognize their individual circumstances, allow them daytime access and a place to store their belongings, and make them feel welcome.
Position: Working to provide permanent housing for people who need it, rather than criminalizing their attempts to survive outside, is known as “Housing First.” This approach has been successful at reducing chronic homelessness in Houston and in Utah. Evidence demonstrates that securing housing first enhances peoples’ chances of achieving stability. Unlike other homelessness programs, Housing First does not insist on preconditions like sobriety, psychiatric care, or moving through transitional housing. Finally, Housing First saves money while reducing chronic homelessness.
Action agenda: Nikkita will work with stakeholders to create progressive tax structures and luxury taxes on corporations in order to ensure that all Seattleites who need and want housing have equitable access to affordable housing options.