Monday, August 29, 2005

Is 10-Year Homelessness Plan Too Conservative?

Word has it that David Irons, candidate for King County Exec, will be proposing his own "3-Year Plan" to end homelessness.  Kudos to Irons for proposing a solution to our housing problem, but his proposal begs the question: "Is the 10-year plan too conservative?"
If Irons can solve the problem of homelessness in 3-years, that'd mean he could a) come up with about 3,200 housing units each year over the next 3 years, and b) solve the legislative and structural issues that are the real reason for homelessness.  If he wants to rent 9,500 empty units each year -- assuming they exist --  to make the space, he'd ultimately need about $100 million per year to make it happen (at around $900/mo per unit).  If he could succeed, that'd sure be a big help.  I hope he's also considering however, that he'll need social services for the folks in those units.  That should just about double his cost.  Anyway, good luck to him if he can make his plan happen! 
But back to the question, is the 10-Year Plan too conservative?  It might be too conservative in that it's not changing the way we do business in addressing homelessness. For one thing, there seems to be little hurry about its implementation. Can we feel good that it has taken almost 9 months since completion of the plan for the County Council to get around to even reviewing it? As a member of the committee responsible for its implementation, I can't feel good that we haven't started attacking the structural issues that make homelessness happen -- economic disruption, social isolation, apathy toward mental health needs, and heartless discharge policies that move vulnerable people from institutions to life on the street.  The cost of these policies this year has been 31 homeless people dead on the streets. We're too conservative in the sense that we're maintaining a low priority for this problem -- just as we have for the last upteen years.


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