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CityBeat header
August 2012 (Volume 1, Issue 4)
Mike O'Brien

Welcome to the summer edition of CityBeat.

In this issue:

Welcome to the summer edition of CityBeat. It has been a busy issue and I have a lot to update you on in this issue:

Please let me know if you have any questions, comments or suggestions for me as your City Councilmember or ideas for future newsletter articles at mike.obrien@seattle.gov

Early Success with Ballard Safe Parking Pilot Program

A pilot program I helped create to address a new kind of homelessness—people living in their vehicles—appears to working to get people back into housing. The program has only been active for four months, but the early returns are encouraging.

Last year I teamed up with State Representative Mary Lou Dickerson (36 District), the Ballard Homes for All Coalition and faith-based organizations in Ballard to create a pilot program to help people who are living in their vehicles have a safe, secure place to park while they work to get back into housing. We created the Ballard Safe Parking Pilot Program with $25,000 from the City and $10,000 from the State. The money goes to fund a part-time housing caseworker to facilitate people living in their cars get back into housing.

This problem is a relatively new phenomenon, and I have written about it on my blog in the past (October 2011). For the full back story, I recommend reading the blog post. Today, I’d like to share some of the early results of this pilot program.

The pilot started with 5 parking spots designated for people in their vehicles in the lot of Our Redeemers Lutheran Church in Ballard in April. Just two weeks ago, a second church joined the pilot, Woodlawn Park United Methodist. The housing caseworker from Compass Housing reports that so far she has worked with 14 households of people living in their vehicles in the Our Redeemers lot, 11 have been single adults and three families with children.

Nine households have exited the pilot so far, three to enter transitional housing; one to live with friends; two chose to leave; and two (both families with children) were placed quickly into motel vouchers. There was an additional family that completed the intake with the caseworker and was able to move directly into a hotel without staying a night in the lot. While the sample size is small, the program is working just as we hoped and we are seeing people getting the assistance they need to get out of their vehicles and back indoors.

We are finding that even though the parkers have been towards the “low income” side of things they have never actually been homeless before. Most have managed by renting rooms or couch surfing but have never experienced what a “shelter” is like and often don’t understand what transitional housing looks like. It creates some initial reluctance in helping them get back into housing, but after developing trust with the housing caseworker from Compass and touring potential transitional housing sites, they become excited about the prospect of finding a place.

I am proud of the early success of the program and look forward to finding new partners in the community to advance our efforts to end homelessness in Seattle. I also hope to expand the pilot program in 2013 to broaden our geographic reach and partner with more willing faith-based organizations throughout the City.

 

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Update on the proposed SODO arena

 

As you may have seen in the news, on Monday, July 30, the King County Council voted to move ahead with the proposed SODO arena deal. That same day, eight City Council members, including myself, sent a letter to Chris Hansen outlining our ideas for improving the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the City and people of Seattle.

The letter lays out some additional securities the City would like to see in the MOU and our desire to see a share of the arena revenues go towards transportation projects in SODO. I remain optimistic that with a little more work on our part and continued conversation with Mr. Hansen, we will find a path forward to bringing the Sonics back to Seattle.  

Pending the ongoing negotiations with Mr. Hansen, we may be discussing the MOU in the Government Performance and Finance Committee again on August 15. Check the SODO Arena Proposal webpage to stay informed of upcoming Council action.

 

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Bag Ban: one month later

 

On July 1, Seattle’s ban on plastic carry out bags took effect. Many, including me, wondered how we’ve all fared in the first month. Thanks to a King5 report, we have a brief look at how one store and its customers are faring one month into the bag ban.

I encourage you to watch the whole two-minute video, my favorite part is the interview with the young girl near the end who says, “I think it's really good for the environment (because) plastic bags are not biodegradable.

 

 

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Caring across generations

 

Last month, Council voted to unanimously support Resolution 31388, supporting the local and national Caring Across Generations campaign that seeks to transform long-term care in the U.S. The campaign aims to both help the individuals and families who rely on long term care services and to support the workers who provide in-home care. Seattle is the first city in the country to adopt such a resolution and I am proud of our actions.

Prior to passing the resolution, I had the opportunity to walk a day in the shoes of a home care provider named Lawrence. Lawrence cares for a man named Greg, who is paraplegic from an accident a few years ago. Greg’s accident and the resulting health care costs have been a big burden to Greg and his partner. Being able to receive care in his home has helped reduce some of that financial and psychological strain. I think we would all prefer to receive care in our own home versus a hospital or nursing home, and thankfully, because of people like Lawrence, Greg can get the care he needs in the comforts of his own home.

The in-home care model also saves the public money. Institutional care is considerably more expensive, and often those costs fall on governments. We can provide better care and save taxpayer money, which is a good thing as long as we are also committed to providing fair wages and benefits to the workers providing the care.

Here is a video put together by SEIU 775, a labor union of long-term care workers that strives to make sure that the people who are taking care of our loved ones are compensated fairly and receive the training they need to provide quality care. I am thankful to SEIU for providing me with this humbling, moving experience.

 

 

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Transit-oriented Development that is Healthy, Green and Just


On June 27 I hosted a special brown bag meeting of the Energy and Environment Committee to talk about a recent report from Puget Sound Sage called “Transit-oriented Development that is Healthy, Green and Just.” We invited guests from Sage and community organizations to discuss how light rail is affecting residents of the Rainier Valley. Light rail was a major investment in the Rainier Valley and brings numerous benefits to our neighborhoods, including affordable access to jobs downtown and the prospect of new business development along the corridor. But this new development also increases the attractiveness of living along the corridor, bringing in new residents and increasing land values in Southeast. As land values increase so do rents, which can price long-term residents, businesses and cultural centers out of the community. These changes pose challenges for existing residents in our most diverse neighborhoods, including many communities of color and immigrant communities. Did you know that more than 40 languages are spoken throughout Rainier Valley? Many of us—including residents of the Valley, organizations like Sage and policymakers like me—are concerned that left unchecked, these challenges could force the Rainier Valley to lose its multicultural character.


Fortunately, there are many organizations working to build community centers, housing for generations of families, and provide other services like childhood education programs that serve as anchors for people who want to maintain a connection to the Rainier Valley. The City of Seattle is engaging in a program called Community Cornerstones to help preserve small businesses and other important places in the Rainier Valley, as well as purchasing land to use for building affordable housing. We are also part of the Growing Transit Communities partnership which is carefully analyzing the unique characteristics of light rail corridors and how they can be used to provide access to quality jobs. I am excited to look for more ways to ensure the Rainier Valley is a place that welcomes new investments and continues to serve a richly diverse population. Many thanks to Puget Sound Sage, Urban Impact, and Transportation Choices Coalition for sharing their research and the work they are doing to help residents prosper in place.

 

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