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Washington State News

‘We Know This is a Crisis.’ Inslee Pitches Homeless Reforms for Next Legislature

(The Center Square) – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee gave a high-level preview of what he will push for during next year’s legislative session to combat homelessness in Washington state from Seattle on Wednesday afternoon.

“We know this is a crisis in the state of Washington,” Inslee said at a press conference from the Civic Hotel. “We know we have a long ways to go. But I am pleased to say that we are making solid progress on this effort. In the last several months we’ve seen quite a number of these encampments removed from our right-of-ways [sic].”

Inslee attributed that progress to the Rights-of-Way Safety Initiative meant to deliver housing and services to people living in certain state-owned rights-of-way, the result of a proposal the governor submitted the state Legislature this year.

King County receive $49.2 million dollar out of the state’s total $143.3 million in funding from the initiative.

According to the King County Regional Homeless Authority, that has translated into four homeless encampments in the county shut down under the initiative, including the removal of garbage and more than 110 people being moved to safe lodging.

Several times during the press conference, Inslee mentioned the end-of-August cleanup of the large homeless encampment underneath the Interstate 5 and Interstate 90 junction in Seattle near the intersection of 10th Avenue South and South Dearborn Street that saw tons of garbage hauled away and getting 75 people into shelter, housing, or treatment.

Although no specific figures were mentioned, Inslee said he looked to build on lawmakers allocating more than $800 million for homeless programs during this year’s legislative session.

“I’m reasonably confident that we will do what we normally have done and increase our commitment financially from the state, from multiple perspectives,” the governor said of the upcoming legislative session.

Inslee offered a broad legislative outline of a plan to address homelessness in Washington state, including more cleanups of homeless camps along freeways across the state under the Rights-of-Way Initiative.

He also called for legislation aimed at constructing more housing at prices that are more affordable for more people.

“But fundamentally we need more housing in the state of Washington,” Inslee said, before going on to work in a plug for the Evergreen State. “We’re 76,000 units of housing short, because we’ve had hundreds of thousands of people moving to the state of Washington because we have such a great economy, because we’re the nicest place to live in the United States.”

Inslee touted the building of tiny home villages in Seattle and other cities as part of the solution to the homeless crisis.

On Monday, Inslee toured Vancouver’s first Safe Stay Community that includes small modular pallet shelters that can house the homeless, praising the city’s efforts as a model for addressing homelessness.

The governor also mentioned that he and lawmakers are looking at ways to help low-income renters and home buyers, including expanding the real estate excise tax exemption for people who sell their homes to first-time home buyers in the state’s program.

“I think it’s important as we do this, we provide solutions throughout the spectrum of housing,” Inslee said. “How to get somebody into a tiny house next week. How to get somebody in a converted hotel next month. How to build a new facility of 100 units like I saw in Vancouver yesterday, or the day before yesterday, that’s a more permanent situation.”

The governor concluded, “We need to make investments throughout that spectrum, and I think we’re on the beam doing that.”