Mayor announces funding to support Center City Initiative
SEATTLE - The Center City Initiative has brought together residents, business owners, social service providers, advocates and multiple agency representatives to develop a balanced, compassionate and effective approach to helping those in need, increasing the sense of safety and security downtown, and improving enforcement of existing laws.
Mayor Mike McGinn is today announcing new investments in the proposed 2014 budget to support recommendations brought forth by the participants in the Center City Roundtable. The investments include $1.7 million for expansion of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program which connects low-level offenders with human services, $150,000 to increase hours at day and hygiene centers, $112,440 to extend Winter Response Shelters year-round, $500,000 for three Seattle Police officers dedicated to supporting Parks Rangers in downtown parks as well as Cal Anderson Park in Capitol Hill, $188,000 to make two recently hired Parks Rangers permanent, and $776,000 to increase Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) staffing.
"These are significant investments that will make downtown Seattle safer and more welcoming for everyone," said Downtown Seattle Association CEO Kate Joncas. "Improving public safety in downtown requires new resources and strategies as well as close collaboration between law enforcement and human service programs."
"The Center City Initiative approach is a paradigm shift about how to achieve public safety and public order," said Lisa Daugaard of the Public Defender Association. "CCI has embraced using enforcement tools that are fair and appropriate and social service tools when they are more effective, and coordinating those approaches for the first time. LEAD gives police officers more options to address the situation of people whose public behavior is problematic because they are addicted, homeless, mentally ill, underemployed, victims of complex trauma, or a combination. The goal is to address those underlying issues so the person can live in a way that is healthier for themselves and poses fewer problems for downtown neighborhoods. We've learned through experience that jail and prosecution rarely achieve that outcome for people facing these problems."
The $1.7 million investment in LEAD will expand the innovative public safety program to cover all of downtown. Additional city support for LEAD grew directly out of the mayor's Center City Roundtable, which brings together residents, businesses, service providers and government agencies to identify specific actions to help make downtown streets safe and inviting. LEAD, a pilot program first started as a public safety effort in Belltown, diverts non-violent drug offenders to wrap-around services instead of perpetuating the failed enforcement-only model of the War on Drugs.
"The investments are made possible because leaders from throughout our downtown community worked hard to find common ground on helping those in need and fairly enforcing existing laws to make our downtown safer and more inviting for all. With their support, and this funding, we can now begin to fully implement the Center City Initiative," said McGinn.
First begun in 2010, LEAD is a model program of interagency cooperation among multiple stakeholders including the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, the Seattle City Attorney's Office, the Seattle Police Department, the King County Sheriff's Office, the King County Executive, the Seattle Mayor's Office, the Seattle City Council, the King County Council, the Washington State Department of Corrections, The Defender Association, the ACLU of Washington, and community members.
The mayor's proposed budget also includes investments in human services outside the umbrella of LEAD, including day and hygiene centers which help persons experiencing homelessness move toward stable housing. An investment of $150,000 will increase hours at facilities that provide services such as case management, healthcare, housing, employment assistance and access to showers, toilets and laundry.
The mayor will also increase shelter capacity by extending Winter Response Shelters year-round, an investment of $112,440. Additional shelter beds will provide safe places to sleep and a path toward stability for people who are homeless. Maintaining year-round shelter minimizes overhead costs by increasing capacity at existing facilities. Up to 30 women will have year-round access to emergency shelter every night through the summer months, and up to 80 men and women will have access each night to the "Behind the Red Door" shelter at City Hall during the summer months.
The mayor's Proposed Budget also adds $776,000 to increase Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) staffing and adds a second contracted mental health coordinator to assist with CIT caseload and follow-up. CIT officers are specially trained in recognizing and communicating with individuals who may suffer from mental illness and work to divert individuals from the justice system by helping them find services elsewhere in the community. The two officers who are currently on loan to the CIT team will return to their duties as 911 responders, and the two officers who are hired and trained specifically for CIT service will have overtime resources available to them as part of the $776,000 investment.
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