The City of Seattle hosted a community meeting on Thursday, June 28 to discuss the proposed Lake Union Village. This post contains answers to questions that were asked at that meeting.
How might pursuing tiny house villages impact the City’s federal (HUD) funding?
Even though tiny house villages serve similar functions as emergency shelters do- such as reducing the number of individuals living in unsanctioned encampments, increasing safety and access to hygiene facilities, and connecting individuals with services and supports to help them end their homelessness- HUD does not count tiny house villages as ‘shelter’. This means that residents of tiny house villages are still part of Seattle’s unsheltered persons count.
HUD expects cities to actively work to reduce the number of unsheltered individuals from year-to-year. In the near-term, residents of tiny house villages will have a neutral impact on Seattle’s unsheltered count. Residents are considered unsheltered prior to entering the village, and they are still considered unsheltered while staying in the village. Over the longer-term, as village residents receive services and supports to access permanent housing, these individuals will then be counted as housed, which will reflect positively on Seattle from HUD’s perspective
How is the City accountable in the usage of taxpayer funds when homeless people aren’t tested for drugs when they move into villages, apply for housing or are in housing?
Being homeless and living unsheltered makes it extremely difficult for people to access addiction treatment, mental health care, physical health care, food and hygiene services, employment services, and case management to end their homelessness.
Nationwide, cities that are demonstrating a reduction in unsheltered homelessness have adopted a model called Housing First. Under Housing First principles, permanent housing is the first priority for homeless people. Once housed, people are more successful in treating and managing other conditions, including behavioral health disorders and substance use disorders. Housing First is a cost-effective service-delivery model that aligns with good stewardship of taxpayer dollars. HSD uses housing first principles to make investments in the homeless services system.
To measure the effectiveness of the City’s investments in homeless services, HSD looks at five performance metrics. These performance measures, which are also used by King County and United Way, work together to ensure accountability and results for the public dollars that are supporting homeless response projects. The results help HSD determine whether programs are using all available resources to assist people in connecting to stable housing and shelter.
HSD presented the first quarter results of 2018 to the City Council on June 26, 2018. Overall, the homeless services programs that receive city funding are more effective in connecting clients to housing in Q1 2018 as compared to Q1 2017. In the first quarter, there were 3,030 household exits from homeless services programs that receive city funding. This is an increase of 1,241 household exits over the first quarter of 2017.
Permitted villages offer safer spaces to stay for over 320 people per night. In Q1 2018, the villages have an exit rate to permanent housing of 17%. This puts the villages slightly below enhanced shelter in connecting clients to housing (20.5% exit rate to housing) and above basic shelter (3.8% exit rate of housing). HSD looks forward to reviewing a full six months of data and results in the second quarter review. You can watch the video of that presentation here.
HSD is pleased that programs have shown improved performance, however more people are falling into homelessness than are connecting to stable housing. In response to the scope of the homelessness crisis, Mayor Durkan has proposed the expansion of shelter and village capacity by 25% so that we can provide safer living conditions for people living unsheltered and for the community at large.
How can community members express their concerns about this project?
The humanitarian crisis unfolding on Seattle streets impact all communities, in every neighborhood across the city. To better help reduce the number of vulnerable people living unsheltered, Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Council committed to this project as one way to get people into safer shelter, decrease the public health impacts of unsheltered homelessness, and increase the City’s ability to support people in ending their homelessness.
HSD’s role is to bring the project online, in partnership with the contracted provider (LIHI) and other City Departments. At all stages of project implementation community input can and does shape project design and can help address neighborhood needs. Community members are encouraged to reach out to the Human Services Department at email@example.com to ask questions, express support, or express concerns about the Lake Union Village. Neighbors interested in volunteering at the site or donating items are encouraged to reach out to LIHI at jcastle@LIHI.org.
What can be done to deter homeless people from outside this area from moving to Seattle?
The idea that Seattle’s challenges with homelessness are caused by an influx of people from outside the regions is untrue. A 2016 survey of just over 1,000 individuals living unsheltered in Seattle indicated that 49% of respondents were living in Seattle immediately prior to becoming homeless. An additional 36% of respondents reported living in wider King County or other Washington Counties immediately prior to becoming homeless.
The vast majority of individuals experiencing homelessness reported moving to Seattle for the same reasons the rest of the population does; having family/friends living in Seattle (35%), or for a local job (34%). The Evergrey recently addressed this here.
Can we reserve Seattle’s homeless services dollars only for those people who were living in Seattle immediately prior to becoming homeless?
It’s not possible to restrict Seattle homeless services dollars to those people who were living in Seattle immediately prior to becoming homeless. Since most homeless services in Seattle are designed to transition people from homelessness to housing, this would put the City in violation of federal and local fair housing laws. It would also leave vulnerable individuals who are living outdoors without any access services, including medically fragile individuals, those with significant mental health care needs, and families with young children.
What can be done about street lighting around Aloha/Dexter and the adjacent park?
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) does light analysis on arterial streets and Seattle City Light (SCL) does light analysis on non-arterials. An analysis was recently completed, and updates were made in the neighborhood around the Lake Union Village site. According to SCL this neighborhood has the brightest arterial lights in the city. If community members believe additional remedies are needed they can make a request through the City’s Customer Service Bureau or through the City’s Find It, Fix It mobile app.
How does SPD respond to crime problems in neighborhoods that host villages and what are the crime stats for these neighborhoods?
Crime data, including any upticks in crime, is taken into consideration when making decisions on where to assign patrol resources. Emphasis patrols have been used to address areas of concern, when appropriate.
Neighborhood-specific crime data is located on the Seattle Police Department website.
What is the progressive discipline process for people who violate the code of conduct?
Progressive discipline provides a graduated range of responses to individuals struggling to adhere to village guidelines. The goal of progressive discipline is to support individuals in being able to successfully stay at the village. LIHI case managers tailor their responses to behavior challenges to the type of infraction that’s been committed. On the low-end, this can include verbal reminders of the expectations and offering support to individuals in making the necessary behavior modifications. At the high-end, individuals can be permanently barred from the village.
What is the difference between how Licton Springs operates and how this village will operate?
The primary difference between Licton Springs and Lake Union Village is that Licton Springs is designed to be a safe space for residents with severe substance use disorders to live with the expectation that these residents will actively use drugs or alcohol. While Lake Union Village will accept residents with substance use disorders, the Code of Conduct prohibits use in public spaces. At each village residents receive case management to address housing barriers to housing, including referrals to substance abuse treatment.
Are there quiet hours for the village?
Yes. Quiet hours will be maintained from 9pm-8am.
Why not use this site for affordable housing?
Increasing affordable housing is a goal of the City’s. Given the length of time it takes to develop housing, it’s essential that we pursue a variety of short, medium, and longer-term strategies to meet the needs of our community. With thousands of our Seattle neighbors living outside, tiny house villages are able to make use of available City land to quickly address safety and housing needs of individuals experiencing homelessness.
When will the next evaluation of the tiny house villages come out?
The 2018 evaluation of tiny house villages is scheduled to be completed in August. Read the 2017 evaluation here.
What is the timeline for the village?
The goal is to begin resident intakes by mid-to-late August.
Does the City differentiate between transients and homeless people?
Seattle uses the HUD categories/definitions of homelessness;
* literally homeless
* imminent risk of homelessness
* homeless under other federal statutes
* and fleeing/attempting to flee domestic violence.
Read detailed descriptions of these definitions here.
Will people be allowed to use drugs or alcohol inside the tiny houses?
Smoking of any kind is not allowed inside the tiny houses and drug and alcohol use will not be permitted in community areas. LIHI will not search tiny houses or people for drug or alcohol use or paraphernalia.
Case managers will work with each resident on addressing their unique housing-related barriers such as employment, health needs, mental health needs, substance use, etc.
All residents are expected to comply with the Code of Conduct at the Lake Union Village.
What is the success rate of the villages in terms of moving people out of homelessness and into permanent housing?
In the first quarter of 2018, Seattle’s permitted village program shows a rate of exits to permanent housing of 17%. Villages with the most supportive services had higher rates of exits. Lake Union Village will have case management and supportive services in line with these villages. HSD will continue to review quarterly performance data for the village program.
How does the City use community input on projects like this, especially once the decision has been made to move forward?
The City uses four models/types of community engagement: informing, consulting, collaborating, and shared decision-making. The particular type of engagement that is used depends on several factors including the urgency of the project, council or legislative action that may have already taken place, and the needs of the community.
Once a decision has been made, and throughout the life of a project, community engagement continues to be important. Community feedback helps guide and inform project-specific policies and procedures, identify areas of concern, and prompts the City to seek remedies or resolutions to ensure that the project is successful for the neighborhood and other key stakeholders.
To provide input on the Lake Union Village project please email firstname.lastname@example.org. All input received becomes part of the public record for this project and will be used to help inform project design.
What will the fence height be?
The current 8’ chain link fence will stay in place. A fabric visual barrier will be added to it for privacy.
Will the Village provide for sharps containment and removal?
Yes, there will be sharps containers on site. The containers will be managed by Seattle/King County Public Health’s mobile medical van which will make regular visits to the village.
Will there be planters and other decorative features at this site?
There will be porches and planters at this site. Neighbors can donate materials and/or volunteer to help with site projects like plantings by contacting Josh at jcastle@LIHI.org.
Will residents be screened for active warrants and sex offender status before becoming residents of this village?
Potential residents will be screened for sex offender status. Individuals on the sex offender registry will not be permitted to be residents of the Lake Union Village.
Potential residents will not be screened for active warrants. Access to stable housing has been shown to increase community safety. Criminal and civil records are often cited as barriers to housing and factors in driving people to homelessness. Lake Union Village’s goal is to help people quickly end their homelessness, get the support and services they need, and enter permanent housing.
Permanent housing has been shown to significantly reduce recidivism rates for new convictions, revocations, and readmission to prison.