This morning, the Human Services Department delivered its second-quarter report to the City Council on the Navigation Team. Last fall the Council placed a proviso on the team’s 2019 budget so that it must deliver a report each quarter in order to get the next quarter’s budget released and available to be spent.
The Nav Team has been increasing the amount of metrics it tracks and produces, though quite frankly most of the numbers in the report (for January – March) are not terribly insightful — especially since its regular work was suspended for two weeks during the February winter storm while the team focused on emergency work getting people indoors. There were, however, some interesting parts of today’s conversation that shed light on recent issues with the team.
The efforts to create a new governance structure for King County and its cities continues to make slow progress. They still don’t have many answers, but they seem to be focusing in on the key questions in the hopes of finding answers by the end of the summer.
Last Friday, All Home King County released the results of the annual “Point in Time” count of homeless people. Its press release headlined the first decrease in homelessness in the county since 2012. The local media hopped on that headline, as did Mayor Durkan in her weekly “Durkan Digest” email newsletter to constituents.
After spending three days going through the report, I have come to the conclusion that not only is there little reason to believe the claim that homelessness decreased in King County, but there are good reasons to view much of the data in the report with great skepticism.
Last week there was a lot of press coverage, much of it inaccurate, regarding a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals related to whether cities can make it a criminal offense to “camp” or sleep on public property.
Here’s what the ruling actually says, and what it means.
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Two weeks ago, a consortium of business district and neighborhood advocacy groups released a report entitled “System Failure: report on prolific offenders in Seattle’s criminal justice system.” The report, authored by Scott Lindsay, a former public safety advisor to Mayor Murray and 2017 candidate for City Attorney, identifies 100 individuals who “cycle through the criminal justice system with little impact on their behavior, repeatedly returning to Seattle’s streets to commit more crimes.”
Heavy on findings but light on recommendations, the report paints a dire picture of the state of the criminal justice system in Seattle and King County, and the ability of this group of “prolific offenders” to game the system. But as with any study that claims such significant findings, it’s worth taking a closer look.
Yesterday Mayor Durkan, Interim Human Services Director Jason Johnson, and other city officials briefed the press on the Human Services Department’s (and the city’s) response to the homelessness crisis in 2018, in advance of releasing selected statistics to the public. In addition, HSD delivered its quarterly report to the City Council this morning on the performance of the Navigation Team. This follows a report from the City Auditor’s office earlier this month criticizing HSD and the Navigation Team for aspects of its response.
This afternoon, Mayor Durkan and several of her department heads held a press briefing on preparations for two more winter storm systems: one that arrived late this afternoon, and the second to arrive midday tomorrow. Tomorrow’s is the one they are all worried about.
Today the Seattle City Auditor released its review of aspects of the city’s homeless response related to early outreach, hygiene services, and rigorous evaluation. The report was critical of the city’s execution on all three issues.
While most of the attention in 2018 was on the lackluster and fruitless “One Table” effort to drive a regional response to homelessness, it appears that quietly the stage was being set for a move to a regional governance system — or at least for the parts under the control of Seattle and King County.