Mayor Murray hires director of homelessness

Mayor Ed Murray today announced that George Scarola will serve as the City’s first ever cabinet-level director of homelessness. Scarola will be responsible for leading the City’s homelessness efforts across departments, providing oversight and evaluation of outcomes, strategic guidance, and leading community engagement.

“Homelessness is a national epidemic, leaving cities like Seattle stepping in to fill the large gaps left behind by state and federal agencies,” said Mayor Murray, “We have made unprecedented investments in homelessness prevention and services.  Because of the growing scope of work around homelessness, Seattle needs a proven manager to ensure we are achieving our desired outcomes. I have known George for many years, working alongside him in Seattle and Olympia, and know him as a unifying leader that excels at creating successful results through community engagement.”

Scarola is an experienced public affairs and community relations manager having led advocacy organizations in Seattle and Olympia for over 25 years. From 1992 to 1998 Scarola led the Sand Point Community Housing Project as Executive Director, which converted housing at the Sand Point Naval Air Station into homes for unsheltered youth, adults, and families. After years of failed school ballot measures, Scarola helped turn the tide for public support for Seattle schools by managing the first success school bonding measure in the spring of 1995, followed by subsequent successful campaigns to fund Seattle schools and affordable housing for adults, seniors, and families.

In the early 2000s, Scarola served as a top aide to Representative Frank Chopp and was Executive Director of the Washington House Democratic Campaign committee during the 2002 election cycle that captured a Democratic majority in the State House. More recently, Scarola served the League of Education Voters as Legislative Director from 2003 to 2012.  This year, Scarola returned from Hefei, China where he was lecturing at the University of Science and Technology of China. Scarola began his career in 1969 teaching at a then recently integrated public elementary school in North Carolina.

“I’ve gotten to know George over the last 20 years, dating back to when he worked with service providers to help convert the former Naval Air Station at Sand Point into housing for people experiencing homelessness,” said Paul Lambros, Executive Director of Plymouth Housing Group. “George is deeply committed to helping Seattle’s most vulnerable residents. We’re looking forward to George taking on this role and leading the City’s efforts in bringing together service providers, community leaders, and homeless advocates to collaboratively address the complex challenge homelessness presents to us all.”

In conjunction with the hiring of Scarola, Mayor Murray issued an executive order calling upon the director of homelessness to oversee and direct key City policy makers responsible for implementing the City’s efforts to address the ongoing homelessness crisis in Seattle. The executive order ensures that the City maintains a consistent approach to planning, budgeting, development and implementation of policies addressing homelessness.

Since taking office, Mayor Murray has increased investments in homelessness response and prevention services to a record $50 million. In 2015, Mayor Murray declared a state of emergency to call on the state and federal government to restore resources and to announce additional funding for shelter beds, a mobile medical van, and harm reduction strategies.

In addition, the City has engaged a national expert on reducing homelessness.  This work along with an analysis of our current homelessness system and recommendations will be announced next month.

Scarola will be paid an annual salary of $137,500. He will start on August, 24th 2016.