1. People living unsheltered are increasingly vulnerable to attacks from people targeting them specifically because they’re homeless. The Seattle Police Department’s 2022 crime report, released earlier this month, showed a 229 percent increase in hate crimes targeting homeless people (an increase of 16 individual crimes), and an increase of 11 homicides in which the victim was homeless over last year.
During a recent meeting of the council’s public safety committee, City Councilmember Sara Nelson used these numbers to imply that expanding the city’s gun-violence prevention efforts to include older adults may be unnecessary, because an uptick in shootings among people older than 24 “could be because of the increased association with gun violence in encampments” rather than a citywide trend.
According to SPD, about a third of gun homicides with victims older than 24 had a “homelessness nexus,” meaning they most likely involved people experiencing homelessness. However, since the interventions that could help people living unsheltered (housing, behavioral health treatment, and job assistance) are similar to the ones that could help older shooting victims who are housed, it’s unclear why this distinction matters, beyond its usefulness as a pro-sweeps talking point.
“It’s a good thing that more [homeless] people are coming forward” to report hate crimes, Police Chief Adrian Diaz said. It also highlights the urgency of efforts to get people inside where they’re safer from both the elements and people who want to target them.
Overall, the number of shots-fired and shooting incidents that involved people experiencing homelessness increased only slightly from 2021—about 4 percent—but that requires context: In 2021, the number of shootings with a homelessness “nexus” increased by 122 percent, meaning both of the last two years have been especially dangerous for people experiencing homelessness.
Despite this alarming increase in violence against people living unsheltered, Nelson focused on the danger encampments supposedly pose to children who may attend school or live nearby. “We need to address the safety of the children first,” she said. In reality, however, living outdoors is most dangerous for unsheltered people themselves, who are increasingly targeted by people who “take things into their own hands,” as Seattle Police Chief Diaz put it, lashing out at people living in encampments for being unhoused.
“It’s a good thing that more [homeless] people are coming forward” to report hate crimes, Diaz told PubliCola earlier this month. It also highlights the urgency of efforts to get people inside where they’re safer from both the elements and people who want to target them.
2. Now that Initiative 135, which establishes a public developer to build permanently affordable “social housing” in Seattle, has passed, supporters have switched gears and are working to get the new agency up and running. They’re up against a deadline: Once the election is certified on February 24, they have 18 months of city support, including staffing and office space, to establish a public development authority and come up with an initial funding source that will allow the PDA to start building housing.
Tiffani McCoy, the advocacy director of Real Change and a leader of the group’s House Our Neighbors! (HON) social-housing campaign, said the group has already discussed initial steps with Councilmember Tammy Morales, including the creation of the agency’s initial board of directors. This board will include seven members appointed by the Seattle Renters’ Commission and six members appointed by the city council, the mayor, and labor and housing representatives. Although HON doesn’t have any official role in the appointments and “we don’t want to overstep,” McCoy said, “it would be cool to have a [Real Change] vendor or someone from the Housing Justice Project,” which advocates for tenants’ rights and provides legal assistance in eviction cases.
Next, the new agency will have to come up with an ongoing funding source to keep itself going, along with a plan to actually pay for social housing, which was not funded by the initiative. State Rep. and former Solid Ground director Frank Chopp (D-43, Seattle), who supported the initiative, has proposed a budget proviso that would pay for the agency’s startup costs.
Chopp says the state is considering new funding sources that could pay for social housing in Seattle, including an expansion of the real-estate excise tax to include a new taxing “tier” for property sales above $5 million; that proposal includes a local option that the city could use to fund social housing.
Pointing to a number of mixed-income projects that are already underway thanks to the state’s Home and Hope program, which acquires public properties and develops them into affordable housing and early-learning centers, Chopp said he doesn’t see the new social housing PDA as a competitor to traditional nonprofit housing providers. “The point is, we need more capacity—the speculative real estate market is not solving the problem, and there are plenty of nonprofits who see the value of this,” Chopp said.
McCoy said initiative backers are considering a few potential progressive local taxes to pay for social housing, including one novel option that she says would not conflict with the city’s efforts to create new progressive revenue to fund the city budget amid ongoing annual shortfalls. A new progressive revenue task force is meeting privately once a month to hash out a set of proposals to supplement Jumpstart payroll tax revenues, which the city has used for several years to backfill general-fund shortfalls.
Although McCoy said she couldn’t discuss specifics on the record, any new revenue source (as opposed to expansion of an existing source, like JumpStart) would likely require a separate ballot measure. In theory, the city council could just put a proposed new tax on the ballot—the same way it put a levy to fund improvements at Pike Place Market, which is run by a PDA, on the ballot in 2008—but a more likely scenario is that I-135 backers would have to run another initiative campaign for funding sometime next year.
6 thoughts on “Violence Against Unsheltered People Spikes, Social Housing Moves Into Startup Mode”
“During a recent meeting of the council’s public safety committee, City Councilmember Sara Nelson used these numbers to imply that expanding the city’s gun-violence prevention efforts to include older adults may be unnecessary, because an uptick in shootings among people older than 24 “could be because of the increased association with gun violence in encampments” rather than a citywide trend.”
The encampments are all over the city. By definition gun violence against the homeless would then be a citywide trend, wouldn’t it? Why does Nelson think it is the opposite?
I had a problem with the way that part about Sara Nelson was reported. The writer gave us an interpretation of the event, telling the reader what to think, rather than reporting the event and letting the reader form their own opinion.
Is the violence against homeless being perpetrated by other homeless? If not could it be violence associated with drugs? The article insinuates housed people are perpetrating crimes on unhoused just to punish them – but the article gives no evidence either way.
“any new revenue source (as opposed to expansion of an existing source, like the JumpStart payroll tax) would likely require a separate ballot measure. In theory, the city council could just put a proposed new tax on the ballot—the same way it put a levy to fund improvements at Pike Place Market, which is run by a PDA, on the ballot in 2008—but a more likely scenario is that I-135 backers would have to run another initiative campaign for funding sometime next year.”
So much for their lies about not wanting/needing/seeking public money while touting this—Surprised? I’m not.
Re Board members for this: What we need on the Board are several skeptics of this whole model to keep any semblance of reason and accountability there may be from being lost in the rush of the cronies to push their own agendas. This is going to be a mess when, after it’s thrown up with substandard materials, there are construction defects as well as normal maintenance to address. This entity will surely be coming back to the taxpayers again and again and again–we need some representation by people who don’t support this to retain any reason in this project.
Re homeless and shooting increases: I think, as I’ve been saying for years, that the majority of these depredations are committed by criminals who prey on the unhoused as easy targets of opportunity. The rest of the time, they’re preying on the rest of us. The abject failure of our governing people to enforce any criminal laws anymore has emboldened them far beyond the past, and now they are thumbing their noses at all of us and preying more viciously on the unhoused because they know there is little or no risk they will be inconvenienced by arrests and prosecutions.
I also think some of the unhoused are shooting one another; they’ve felt they needed to arm themselves in an attempt to protect themselves and their neighbors and friends, but inevitably disputes have arisen and people, some of whom may have mental health issues, are defending themselves or attempting to rectify what they see as wrongs inflicted upon them. The fact that our mealy mouthed councilmembers and police chief talk all around these issues but never address them seems to be part and parcel of ignoring what is right in front of their faces and strictly adhering to their demonstrably false and useless talking points.
Yeah I wouldn’t worry about the I-135 housing board….. I’m certain it will be a 13 person shit show but it doesn’t have any money to spend, so it will gone in 18 months. Can’t figure out the Frank Chopp I-135 support however…. what’s in it for crafty old Chopp? One thing that’s 100% clear… the I-135 has zero support in City Government. Knives out! Let the backstabbing begin!
From the very start of I-135, my question has been…. what’s the plan to get the money? Tiffani McCoy is either really naive or her and her gang have been planning a second ballot measure all along. The Jump Start money is a slush fund for projects the Mayor and City Council want done. Hand off newbies!! Harrell is very good at political back room brawling…. I think he can tank I-135 in less than the 18 months and get far, far away from the scene of the crime.
To anybody who supported I-135…. it’s all fun and games until the money gets involved.
I hope you’re right but have my doubts. Perhaps Chopp is planning to just wait and pounce later. The plan to get the money is exactly what this article said: they’re coming to us, which they lied about planning to do, and they will come again and again and again with various excuses like (1) we said we needed startup support; (2) we’re still in startup mode; (3) startup is costing more but we can’t just throw away everything we’ve already spent … I’m sure you get the picture. I think this is extremely problematic and is only going to get worse, with it all coming out of our pockets with nothing to show for it but a bunch of enriched cronies.