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00000181-fa79-da89-a38d-fb7f2b910000KUOW is joining forces with other Seattle media outlets to highlight the homeless crisis in the city and region on Wednesday, June 29, 2017.The effort was modeled after a collaboration by more than 70 San Francisco outlets to focus a day of news attention on the issue and possible solutions.Read more about the Seattle project and check out our coverage below. Follow the city's coverage by using #SeaHomeless.HighlightsThe Jungle: an ongoing coverage project going into the notorious homeless encampment under Interstate 5.Ask Seattle's Homeless Community: KUOW is launching a Facebook group where anyone may ask a question about homelessness, but only people who have experienced it may answer. This was inspired by a recent event KUOW co-presented with Seattle Public Library and Real Change, where residents of the Jungle answered audience questions. No End In Sight: an award-winning investigative project from KUOW about King County's 10-year plan to end homelessness.

Report: Seattle's homeless crisis isn't for lack of money

A person sleeps on a bench in a Seattle park.
Flickr Photo/mitchell haindfield (CC BY 2.0)/
A person sleeps on a bench in a Seattle park.

Last week, Seattle’s leaders rejected a proposed head tax on big business, with the money going to pay for homeless services. But an investigation by the Puget Sound Business Journal found the homelessness crisis isn’t being driven by a lack of money — there’s more than $1 billion spent annually on services for the homeless.

The problem is a lack of communication.

Bill Radke sat down with Emily Parkhurst, editor in chief of the Business Journal, to learn more.

“When you look at the money that’s being spent to essentially keep these people living on the street, it’s a staggering amount,” Parkhurst said. “And if that amount of money was then spent trying to get them homes … we’d have paid for it in three-and-a-half years.”

The article sums the problem up this way:

“Making the system more efficient would not only save hundreds of millions of dollars. It would also save lives. Ninety-one homeless people died in King County last year, and the region’s opioid crisis — the cause of many such deaths — is only getting worse ... “It costs nearly four times more to care for and treat someone living on the street than it does to care for that same person once he or she has a home.”

But Parkhurst said it’s more complex than it seems at first. For instance, some homeless people aren’t ready to live on their own in permanent housing.

Still, the investigation showed there’s little tracking at agencies and nonprofits, and sometimes there isn’t any tracking at all.

The Seattle Police Department doesn’t track spending on homelessness services, Parkhurst said. And the Puget Sound Business Journal reported that there are nine police calls a day at the Union Gospel Mission, not counting other emergency responders such as medics.

“That’s more than one full-time police officer dedicated just to the Union Gospel Mission every day,” she said.

And since there’s little meaningful tracking, there’s little communication between service providers.

“I think you’ve got a lot of people in charge,” Parkhurst said. “Who is actually in charge?”

Read the full story via the Puget Sound Business Journal.

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