Seattle experiments with new solutions to ease homelessness
By Phuong Le, Associated Press : sfchronicle – excerpt
SEATTLE (AP) — As homeless deaths mounted last fall in Seattle, elected officials declared an emergency, resorting to a tool often reserved for natural disasters to confront the burgeoning population of people living on the streets.
The mayor opened a new city-sanctioned homeless encampment and committed millions more dollars to expand shelter beds and social services. Then the crisis hit new heights: Three homeless boys were charged this month with killing two people at a longstanding homeless camp known as The Jungle. And a one-night census of homeless revealed a 19 percent spike, the third annual increase in as many years.
Now the mayor and the Seattle City Council are under pressure to do more, and they are taking steps to offer the homeless cleaner, safer places to stay. This week, the city plans to open two parking lots where people living in RVs and cars can park overnight with access to toilets, garbage and social services. Officials are also planning a third tent community.
Seattle’s struggle to respond illustrates how challenging the homeless problem is, particularly in one of the fastest-growing U.S. cities. The area is simultaneously dealing with skyrocketing rents, a heroin epidemic and declining federal housing support. Like many other population centers, it also has a lack of mental health services and drug-treatment programs… (more)
Many people in San Francisco have talked about opening car parks to the homeless but so far, no one has taken that on. If it works in other cities, there is no reason not to try it in San Francisco. This time, we should make sure there are facilities for public use and not shove people into a dark, cold cavern with no facilities like they tried to do at Pier 80. No wonder folks turned that offer down.