The growing homeless crisis in Seattle has forced Mayor Ed Murray to declare a civil emergency to immediately address the issue.
Murray joined other Seattle leaders, as well as King County Executive Dow Constantine, in authorizing a one-time $5.3 million emergency aid package to help fund hundreds of additional shelter beds, a mobile mental health van, and additional preventative efforts and programs.
While King County already spends $36 million annually to help those at risk of homelessness, the problem has not abated. Since 2005, the region's daily homelessness population has jumped from 2,000 individuals to more than 10,000.
"Despite our generosity, the magnitude of the problem is growing worse," Murray said during a news conference. "All of us are struggling to understand, despite our efforts, why this crisis continues to grow."
Both the mayor and county executive singled out a decline in federal affordable housing funding and state and federal funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment as contributors to the homeless crisis. In framing the situation as an emergency — a move previously made by Los Angeles, Portland and Hawaii — Seattle leaders are hopeful the issue is addressed not just locally, but nationally.
"We must get this issue back on the national agenda," Murray added. "The reality is, we are in a moment in our history where decades of service cuts, growing income inequality, and many untreated issues of mental health and drug addiction have finally resulted in a human crisis seldom seen in the history of our city."