EDITORIAL | Homelessness should be top priority for Durkan

Much has been made in the week since Jenny Durkan officially became mayor-elect about what the priorities of the former U.S. Attorney should be when she takes office at the end of the month.

Granted, there is no shortage of issues facing the city, and the 12,000-employee municipal apparatus with a $6 billion budget can work on more than one thing at a time.

But the first few months of any political term are crucial for charting the course of the next four years. The challenges we choose to face head-on now show where our values lie, and what we believe needs to be addressed the fastest.

And there should be no debate over what that is.

Each night, thousands of our neighbors go to sleep without a roof over their heads. We need to shelter them in the short-term. We need to connect them with the services they need. And we need to build the housing necessary to allow people of all income-levels to call the city home both now and in the future.

It’s not really a singular issue. As high-earners continue to flood into the city, the relative lack of housing has pushed up prices and pushed people out, either further from the city center or onto the streets. Meanwhile, many of those who hang on are increasingly rent-burdened and a missed paycheck away from losing what they have. It’s a crisis, plain and simple.

During the campaign, Durkan said she would lead an effort to add 700 additional shelter beds, between 50 and 100 in each council district, create 1,000 new tiny homes in her first year, and double down on the, “navigation team,” strategy, with an emphasis on outreach for those living in cars and RVs.

All of that should be at the forefront as her term gets underway. But, in the same breath, it should only be acknowledged as the starting point. The Point-in-Time Count released in late May counted more than 11,000 people experiencing homelessness in King County, nearly 5,500 of which were unsheltered. The city will need more help in addressing what is a clear regional issue, but it also cannot stand to sit on its hands and wait for more revenue from Olympia (the mayor-elect has acknowledged as much).

In introducing the co-chairs of her transition committee last week, Durkan said that she would work hard to be, “the mayor for all Seattle,” in particular for those who didn’t vote for her.

The best way to do that, in our view, is to make sure that all of Seattle of stably housed.