Jun 1, 2022 - News

Harrell unveils dashboard to track progress on homelessness response

Data: City of Seattle; Chart: Axios Visuals

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell's administration unveiled a public-facing dashboard Tuesday with the data that will drive the city's response to the homelessness crisis and allow citizens to better gauge how well the city is doing.

What's happening: The city's new dashboard for the first time consolidates information from six databases tracking Seattle's homelessness situation and resources, including:

  • A budget breakdown showing how the city is spending money on homelessness issues.
  • An interactive map tracking the location of the verified 763 tents and 225 RVs housing unsheltered people in Seattle, plus where encampments have been shut down.
  • The latest count of open shelter beds, new ones coming in the pipeline and other potential services available to offer prior to encampment removals.

Why it matters: During Harrell's first months in office, his administration's aggressive approach to removing tent encampments has drawn both supporters and critics, some of whom have questioned whether the city's response was really addressing root causes of the problem.

Flashback: During an interview with Axios last month, Harrell vented his frustrations with persistent questions about his approach when pressed how citizens could tell whether it was effective or just pushing camps around the city.

  • "When will the city recognize — because many people do — we are doing outstanding work?" Harrell asked. "But I have to spend countless hours on interviews like this, where people are questioning this or questioning that."

The latest: On Tuesday, Harrell noted the previous administration under Mayor Jenny Durkan effectively had no plan to assess the city's resources in an outcome-based way.

  • That required months of work to put together the dashboard and offer a data-driven strategy, both Harrell and City Councilmember Andrew Lewis said during a press conference.
  • Harrell added getting people sheltered is just one part in his three-pronged plan that also includes more "upstream" resources to prevent people from becoming unsheltered and to increase more long-term affordable housing.

What they're saying: "We're opening up the data for everyone to see, so you can see what I see," Harrell said.

Details: Harrell and Tiffany Washington, his deputy mayor of housing and homelessness, unveiled the dashboard before a press tour of the soon-to-be opened Dockside Apartments, which the city acquired for $18.9 million via the Low Income Housing Institute.

  • The building, on the site of the former Spud Fish & Chips shack across from Green Lake, will provide 70 new permanent homes for individuals experiencing homelessness, and an additional 22 homes for low-wage earners.
  • The city has identified about 1,300 units of permanent shelter or housing so far in 2022 under its year-end goal of identifying 2,000 units.

Of note: Harrell also reiterated the city's expectation that more towns and cities countywide must pitch in to help fund the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, for which Seattle now contributes nearly 70% of a $173 million budget.

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