Politics Define Bed
Seattle King County Coalition for the Homeless (SKCCH), a coalition of homeless service providers, will be out on the streets tonight doing their annual count to get a sense of the region’s homeless population. (Last year’s one-night count found about 2,200 people on the streets, in addition to the 4,600 in shelters or transitional housing.)
The count comes at a time when the mayor’s new budget cuts more than $200,000 from emergency shelter bed services like the Downtown Emergency Services Center and St. Martin’s. That’s a loss of between 50-150 beds. Additionally, SHARE/WHEEL (an emergency bed provider that is no longer participating in city services because it doesn’t agree with the city’s federally-mandated homeless computer tracking program) accounts for about 300 emergency beds lost.
Despite the cuts (and the losses), Nickels has pledged that there will be no net loss of shelter beds this year. In a January 5 letter to Nickels, the SKCCH asked Nickels to explain how he planned to live up to the pledge.
Without explaining what services will be funded, Nickels responded in a letter this week saying he’s added $350,000 to the budget to ensure that no beds will be lost.
It isn’t clear, however, if the SKCCH and Nickels are working from the same definition of “shelter bed.” The SKCCH is including emergency beds in its equation. However, as the city begins to enact the 10-year plan to end homelessness, Nickels’s bed count may not include the same number of emergency beds that exist today. Beds that aren’t part of programs that are primarily about moving people out of shelters into stable housing may get short shrift. This could, in fact, result in a net loss in the number of emergency beds that exist.