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City of Seattle
Gregory J. Nickels (former Mayor)

SUBJECT: Mayor announces 'Housing First' funding for Homeless Veterans

9/21/2006  12:00:00 AM

Mayor announces “Housing First” funding for Homeless Veterans
$3 million increases Seattle’s financial commitment to ending homelessness

SEATTLE - Today Mayor Greg Nickels announced he’s included $3 million in his proposed 2007-2008 budget to create a comprehensive housing and services program - Housing First - for homeless veterans. The money would build on more than $38 million the Seattle committed in 2005 to help end homelessness.

“Many vets leave the service and resume their lives. But some return to fight a different kind of battle - with drugs, alcohol or mental illness,” said Mayor Nickels. “Simply put, veterans who fought our battles abroad shouldn’t be sleeping on our streets at home.”

Nationally, an estimated 25 to 30 percent of chronically homeless people are veterans.

“In addition to veterans from Vietnam and the Gulf War, we are beginning to see the next wave of homeless veterans, both men and women, among those who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Human Services Director Patricia McInturff. “Many of these veterans, as with veterans of other wars, need treatment for post traumatic stress disorder and employment training to help them get back on their feet.”

Sheila Sebron spent eight years in the U.S. Air Force and was medically discharged. She spent 20 years struggling to recover from “line of duty” injuries that left her disabled. Her severe disabilities and lack of adequate support left her and her two children homeless.

“As a nation at war, we must plan for the recovery of our returning soldiers,” Sebron said. “As a disabled veteran, I know that having housing with supportive services, especially when administered by fellow veterans who understand the potentially crippling effects of PTSD, is critical for our successful reintegration into communities.”

The mayor today also challenged suburban cities in King County to increase the amount of money they spend on ending homelessness. He noted that Seattle spends about $42 per capita annually on homeless and affordable housing programs. In comparison, Bellevue contributes approximately $11 per capita; Kirkland $4.32; and Redmond $3.33.

“Homelessness is not a Seattle problem - it is shared by every community regardless of size,” Nickels said. “We need more than encouragement from suburban cities - we need allies willing to provide the resources necessary to end homelessness in our communities.”

The $3 million the mayor proposed today will initially provide rent subsidies for both men and women who have served in the military while permanent housing is being built. It would also fund intensive services, such as mental health or chemical dependency counseling and treatment, job training, and other necessary services to bring veterans in need to a place of self-sufficiency.

This spring, the city will start the process of building permanent housing with supportive services specifically for homeless veterans. Seattle will work to combine city funding with other sources, including the state and county. After receiving intensive services and the support they need, the veterans will transition, where possible, out of the housing and services to independent living to make room for other veterans.

“We estimate that we will initially assist 30 to 40 veterans,” said Office of Housing Director Adrienne Quinn. “It is important to remember that because we will be focusing on chronically homeless individuals, we anticipate that their needs will be significant. In the long run, though, this type of investment is more humane and more cost effective than paying for these same individuals to cycle in and out of Harborview, the sobering center or jail.”

Nickels made his funding announcement this morning in the Garden of Remembrance, a half-acre garden honoring Washington’s wartime dead, located at Benaroya Hall.

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Office of the Mayor

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