Homelessness in Seattle is a medical issue that needs a Doctor to solve it.
We need lasting solutions to our chronic issues of homelessness and solutions that are based on a deep understanding of the actual causes of these problems, rather than reactions that make them worse.
I will make our city safe by removing tent dwellers from city parks and city streets.
Here is why and how (scroll to solutions if you want):
I will make our city safe by removing tent dwellers from city parks and city streets.
Here is why and how (scroll to solutions if you want):
Our homelessness problem is no longer a problem of just affordable housing. No amount of affordable housing will alleviate the problem of tent dwellers living in our public spaces. We left the problem of homelessness unsolved for so long, that it has become a medical problem. Addiction is a disease. Addicted individuals need opportunities and limits just like everyone else. Punishing people for living in our parks when they have nowhere else to go is unreasonable and cruel. We have the moral and legal responsibility to provide a safe place to live. A safe place has real limits with restrictions. We must give our less fortunate Seattleites the opportunity to live in a safe place and the opportunity to recover from their disease and lead meaningful and productive lives.
The medical definition of addiction is someone who will choose to support their habit over anything else in their lives. Addicted individuals will choose their habit over their partner, their parents, their children, their jobs, their bodies, their health, their reputation, and their housing. Those of us who have any personal experience in working with addiction can testify to this. Addicted people live in tents primarily because it’s free. Housing is no longer their priority, their addiction is. And unfortunately, if given housing that can be traded to support their habit, they will trade it away to support their addiction. In fact, some receive disability payments that are meant for housing but are used instead to support their addiction.
Addiction is a disease. People come to be addicted through various pathways and for various reasons, but once addicted to a substance, people are typically powerless to make a change in their lives alone. Addicted individuals need opportunities and limits just like everyone else. Punishing them for living in our parks when they have nowhere else to go is unreasonable and cruel, as the courts have determined. We have the moral and legal responsibility to provide a place to live that is safe. A safe place has real limits with restrictions on who comes and goes and what is brought in and out. It is not a free-for-all. This is what all treatment facilities for addiction and mental illness look like, whether voluntary or involuntary. They are not city parks or streets with no restrictions. This is why I am running for mayor. We must give our less fortunate Seattlites the opportunity to do the right thing. The opportunity to live in a safe place where they can recover from their disease and lead meaningful and productive lives.
I believe that I am the most qualified candidate to manage our pressing medical issues of addiction and mental illness that drive homelessness in our city, the one who will make our city streets safe.
As a physician, I’ve spent my life caring for people on a daily basis who struggle with homelessness, addiction, mental illness, and caring for our poor and ignored who have nowhere else to go. I understand their struggles and I take the time to listen and make a difference in their lives. My personal creed is to always provide the kind of care I would like to receive. I am committed to providing real options for treatment and housing for those who have nowhere else to go.
From an addicted person's perspective, prior to 2019, living in city parks led to jail terms that limited their ability to support their addiction, so they would find other solutions themselves whenever possible. Now we are offering permanent free housing on prime Seattle park real estate with a get out of jail free card for stealing from our homes and businesses to meet their needs - including their addiction. The combination of free housing, no expectations, and no consequences is an open invitation for more people with addictions to move onto our public lands. And now that this practice has become an accepted way of living, others who want free housing are also moving in. Each day that we fail to provide medical treatment in a safe and controlled environment makes our homeless, addiction, crime, graffiti and trash problem bigger and our public spaces smaller.
People who use theft to support their addiction cannot be placed safely in any normal housing environment. This is the reason the cities surrounding Seattle have passed laws forbidding us from placing our homeless in their hotels. People who live in public spaces have demonstrated that they are unable to care for themselves.
The Solution to Homelessness
Tiny homes, Permanent Supportive Housing and other innovative ways to house and help the homeless are solutions for some of our homeless, but not all. We must look to diverse solutions for diverse problems faced by our homeless community members and our city. I will work with the community so we are living up to our legal obligation to provide basic emergency food, shelter, security, and treatment to our residents who have no other options and put in place an outcome driven process. Federal and state funding and local resources are available to help in upholding the mandate that has been so unhappily and wrongly interpreted to allow for tent dwelling in our public spaces.
Just as we can build emergency treatment facilities in stadiums for the COVID pandemic, we can build emergency treatment facilities to manage our addiction and mental health crisis and deal with the backlog of treatment caused by years of failed reactions. We need to help addicted or mentally ill homeless people by opening permanent self-contained residential treatment facilities specifically for our Seattle homeless residents that provide medical, psychiatric, and addiction treatment, as well as housing, personal growth, education, work, and eventually independence. Residential treatment facilities for medical problems, eating disorders, psychiatric illnesses and drug use all require a controlled environment to be effective, and this is true for managing our homeless population as well.
Under my leadership, the City of Seattle will provide real residential treatment solutions – not just treatment plans- for those who have nowhere else to go. Any person who presents an immediate danger to themselves or others or who is gravely disabled can and should be legally involuntarily detained for treatment for their own safety and the safety of all of us. We must and will have treatment beds if we are to solve this problem.
Those with addiction who do not present an immediate danger to themselves or others are free to refuse treatment. Just because a person refuses drug treatment does not mean we have to enable it. When we follow our moral and legal responsibility to provide a safe place that has real limits with restrictions on who comes and goes and what is brought in and out, we remove the default right to live in public spaces. Those who choose their addiction over public safety will now be held accountable for their actions just like we would for ourselves and anyone else. We must stop enabling criminal activity.
I do not intend for our city to pay for rehabilitation and housing for everyone who wants to move to Seattle and live in a tent. That is beyond our scope. Our treatment programs are for those who have been residents of our city before becoming homeless. Non-residents will be given the opportunity to return to their home city.
While I intend to have emergency capacity for everyone living outside in public places, I anticipate that more than half will decline to voluntarily enter a treatment program and will choose to pursue other options. That is a choice and we will respect it. However, if a person who refuses a safe place is found again living on public lands, it will then be up to the courts to determine what to do, whether involuntary treatment or imprisonment.
If we want to take care of the problems of homelessness, treatment of addiction and mental illness, and providing the services so people flourish in their lives, we have to pay for them. I support both RCW 82.14.530 and RCW 82.14.460 If we do not do the right thing and invest in our people, we will all pay anyway. Our city council leader’s reactions to our homeless problem continue to create more homelessness, not less. Each day that we wait escalates our problem. We need to end the poor and middle class shouldering the costs. The Jump Start Tax is a good example of proportionate funding.
Our problem of affordable housing is chronic and must be solved for Seattle to be a livable city.
We must have affordable housing for all people who live or work in our city who need it.
Too many people working in Seattle are not housed in the city and have to leave because they can’t afford to live in Seattle. Seattle needs to rethink “creating” affordable homes and stop tearing down affordable homes to build homes under the guise of “affordable” that are not affordable. Affordable housing should be a public-private partnership, similar to our public utilities. Low-income housing and offsets that builders pay under HALA are not creating available affordable housing but instead are used as a sin tax. The Incentive Zoning program reports only 6 buildings. We must ensure outputs are: enough affordable housing to house our people who need it.
Repeatedly, I have observed our city leaders reacting to problems without understanding them, and then making our problems worse rather than better. For example, our city leaders say they want more affordable housing. They pay back developer donations with friendly zoning laws and ordinances that tear down affordable housing and replace it with million dollar townhomes and tiny condos that cost $400,000. They can’t see how they contribute to the failure of affordable housing with their zoning laws and ordinances, and instead make the problem worse with legislation to outlaw eviction of people who can’t pay their rent - but don’t fund it. This unfunded short-term compassionate re-action punishes landlords who provide affordable housing, especially the local small businesses who cannot afford a tenant who does not pay rent for 6 months. It sends them a message to get out of the rental business. Now there is even less affordable housing, and a strong discouragement of development of new affordable housing. Would you invest your life savings in affordable housing if you knew there was a strong chance your tenants would not pay the rent for 6 months out of the year? If we want affordable housing, we need to make different choices based on a deep understanding of our system. Our city leader’s reactions to the lack of affordable housing has given us less affordable housing, not more.
Too many people working in Seattle are not housed in the city and have to leave because they can’t afford to live in Seattle. Seattle needs to rethink “creating” affordable homes and stop tearing down affordable homes to build homes under the guise of “affordable” that are not affordable. Affordable housing should be a public-private partnership, similar to our public utilities. Low-income housing and offsets that builders pay under HALA are not creating available affordable housing but instead are used as a sin tax. The Incentive Zoning program reports only 6 buildings.. We must ensure outputs are: enough affordable housing to house our people who need it. We need to reward and protect small businesses, including landlords who provide affordable housing, not punish them.
The government needs to do its job of providing affordable housing, and not expect private business to step in because of its lack of vision or ability to care for our people. We need to stop looking to the market to solve the problems that the market is not designed to solve. It does not serve anybody’s interest to put Amazon or Microsoft in the role of mayor, city council, urban planning, zoning and housing authority. The city government needs to take responsibility and action to protect, provide and preserve affordable housing. We can do this with a public-private partnership, ensuring the outcomes are monitored and process regulated, and all held accountable.
The Solution to Affordable Housing
Under my leadership, the city of Seattle will develop a public private partnership similar to our public utilities, that will be responsible for providing affordable housing for people who work in our city. Our city needs a public works project of affordable housing available to those who work in our city and make less than 70% of the median household income. Under my leadership, the City of Seattle will build pre-designed and pre-permitted mid-rise units situated all around the city. Residents would live close to their jobs to limit traffic, travel, and our carbon foot-print. These units would provide construction jobs for people who live here as well.
If we want more affordable housing we need to build it, not tear it down, and we need to reward those who provide affordable housing, not punish them.
We must first fix the zoning laws and ordinances so that all of us except some developers experience as broken, or we will end up with an even bigger broken morass. We must eradicate the dysfunction and corruption of our current zoning laws and affordable housing programs, such as the Seattle Low Income Zoning and HALA programs, and fix them so that current programs and policies result in the outcomes of green and livable affordable housing for those who need it.
Regulating rent must be fair to renters and to local landlords living and providing housing in our city, or we will lose housing for everyone. It is the role of the city government to protect current affordable housing and to develop more affordable housing when no existing options exist, such as by increasing scattered site housing for low income Seattleites through the Seattle Housing Authority (https://www.seattlehousing.org/properties/scattered-sites). I favor a public-partnership similar to the public utilities to realize affordable housing for all who need it.