Building Connections and Offering Work 

I have received many emails from friends and neighbors asking “Why don’t we do what Albuquerque and Portland, Maine are doing – HIRE people who are homeless?”

Good news, we do.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico the city started a program called  “There’s a Better Way” which reaches homeless people and connects them to jobs throughout Albuquerque.

I first learned about this Albuquerque program last year from our friend Sgt. Paul Gracy of the Seattle Police Department’s West Precinct.  In turn, I reached out to Downtown Seattle Association and the Millionair Club.  DSA offers work through their successful Metropolitan Improvement District, and the Millionair Club now has joined with United Way of King County to provide job opportunities to people who are homeless through a new program called Jobs Connect.

The Millionair Club’s model in Seattle takes Albuquerque’s program a step further.  Workers go through background checks, an orientation process, and job training prior to going out to work. More employers are willing to participate in the program this way.

Additionally, workers in Seattle are paid by check, provided with L&I insurance, and the employee pays appropriate taxes. And Jobs Connect helps workers find housing and links the workers to job ready services, such as warm showers, laundry, meals, work, clothes, cell phones, and job licenses.

This holistic model is what many people need to stabilize and to get up and on with their lives.

In the first six months of operation, Millionair Club’s Jobs Connect has seen reasonable success. Those involved agree that combining outreach, job training, job placement and housing placement is a winning combination.

In six months between July 2016 and January 2017 Jobs Connect achieved the following benchmarks:

  • Reached 3,631 people- This step is crucial in building trust and relationships. It often takes several tries before a person feels comfortable to join MCC’s Supportive Employment Program
  • 715 people have completed at least one day of work
  • 82 people have obtained a long-term job

Here’s a first hand story I have permission to print:

Homeless when he arrived at the Millionair Club Charity, Claudio said he had “hopes, but nothing certain.”

Claudio emigrated to the United States from Brazil and has been a U.S. citizen for 30 years.  He speaks seven languages, and ran his own interpreter business in Massachusetts.

Claudio returned to his native country after he and his wife divorced.  But employment opportunities in Brazil were few and far between.  He thought to himself, “what have I done with my life?”

So he returned to the United States and started working for fish processors in Alaska.  The work was hard –often up to 18 hours a day– and his employers were erratic in their payment.  So, in February 2017, Claudio moved to Seattle to find something else.

Claudio moved in to the Bread of Life mission and came to the Millionair Club Charity last month.  He said there is a difference in the people he met here: “You know, I’ve lived in many places around the world.  But Seattle is a great place to be and restart your life.  There is more respect here, and more opportunities.  At the MCC, my life started to become different.”

Millionair Club Charity reports that while progress is being made for many people like Claudio, they seek help in two things:

  • More employers are needed—there are more willing and trained workers than there are jobs.
  •  More affordable housing is also necessary to house the workers. This is why it is imperative we work with our county, state and federal partners as well as the business and nonprofit community to increase our affordable housing options in any way we can.

Next time someone says “Why aren’t we doing what Albuquerque and Portland Maine do?” You’ll know the answer.  We do.  And you can let them know they, too, can help by calling Jacki Lorenz or Bill Miller at the Millionair Club at 206-728-JOBS (5627) or hiring a local worker through their website here.

Moving forward with the first Seattle Navigation Center

Last week the Mayor announced that our first  Navigation Center will be housed in the International District in the Pearl Warren Building.

I have heard some concerns about location, and I will say that nearly every neighborhood initially has concerns about the location of human service facilities.  That said, we have seen in Seattle over the past year movement toward the idea that every neighborhood can be part of the solution, that neighbors have a right to expect amenities such a garbage cans, running water, and more police presence at shelters and encampments, and simultaneously people experiencing homelessness can be welcomed as good neighbors.

Establishing  the Navigation Center  is a critical piece of our Pathways Home Plan in developing a person-centered effort, and moving individuals inside and ultimately helping them secure housing and needed services is our best approach to reduce homelessness.  We are modeling this Navigation Center after what has been successful in San Francisco.

Our new Navigation Center will provide safe and supported indoor space for people experiencing homelessness. I wrote about my visit to the San Francisco  Navigation Center last May that addresses many needs that other shelters can’t address, including space for possessions, pets, and partners and offering “radical hospitality” where people’s individual needs are addressed.

Seattle Met’s Rianna Hildago recently wrote about the  San Francisco Navigation Center and the impacts on people who are experiencing homelessness.   The success San Francisco is having in the Mission District has been documented, so much so that San Francisco intends to open up three more Navigation Centers.  Yes, like in Seattle, some San Francisco neighborhoods have pushed back when sites are contemplated in their neighborhood, but things are changing there, too.   A new Navigation Center to be opened this March has actually been embraced by neighbors and welcomed by the Dogpatch neighborhood.

In Seattle, support staff and residents will work together to create personalized plans to find permanent housing while providing the basics –  restrooms, showers, storage and a place to call home — for now.  Seattle is also committed to working with neighborhoods so that addressing homelessness is something we can all get behind with parameters.  As I have said repeatedly, government cannot solved the problem of homelessness alone.  We all need to get involved in one supportive way or another.

I am encouraged that San Francisco neighborhoods have shown that Navigation Centers can be positive additions.  Seattle is providing needed 24/7 shelter –with storage facilities — and I am proud to partner with DESC, our neighborhoods, our caregivers, service providers and police to provide care and a pathway to a better life for some of our most vulnerable residents.

Connecting With the Library’s Daily Readers

Seattle’s Central Library

The Seattle Public Libraries (SPL) offer a lifeline for people who are experiencing homelessness.

Libraries offer community spaces to get warm, rest, access the internet, use the bathroom, and read without being disturbed. SPL has also worked hard to reduce barriers to using the library, like issuing library cards to people without a permanent address and taking mobile libraries to tent cities.

Realizing that its “Daily Readers”, in the compassionate parlance of SPL, need more specialized assistance than librarians could offer, the library acted to connect its patrons with social service resources beyond its walls.


With funding from the Seattle Public Library Foundation, SPL worked with the Downtown Emergency Services Center (DESC) to welcome a community resources specialist to the library.  Hallie, the first-ever social service worker in our libraries, helps patrons find resources that meet their basic needs.  Accessing affordable housing and services is very difficult when a person does not have a permanent home.

Hallie now completes housing assessments for Coordinated Entry For All, the new system through King County that assesses the needs of people experiencing homelessness and matches them to housing resources, and assists with filling out housing applications for other potential options; helps replace lost identification cards; finds storage for personal belongings and connects people with health care.

After working in family shelters since 2010, Hallie works primarily with single adults in the thirty hours she spends per week with SPL. She offers both drop-in hours and meetings by appointment at the Central Library from Tuesday – Friday and recently expanded to the Ballard Library, where she offers drop-in hours between 11:00 – 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday.  You can learn more about what Hallie offers here.

SPL Community Engagement Manager Valerie Wonder, Community Resources Specialist Hallie, CM Sally Bagshaw, and City Librarian Marcellus Turner

In addition to spending time in these two libraries, Hallie occasionally joins the mobile services teams when they visit our managed tent cities, allowing her to connect with library patrons around the city. Among the resources that these teams offer when visiting are mobile devices known as a HotSpots that allow connection to the Internet.

Funding from Youth Voice, Youth Choice, a youth participatory budgeting project managed by the Department of Neighborhoods (DON), expanded SPL’s HotSpot program to provide additional mobile internet access to people living in encampments.  These HotSpots can checked out for up to two months as part of the Library’s digital equity programs. One device can support up to 15 people and provides access to a basic utility for people experiencing homelessness.

We asked whether the HotSpots get returned to the library, and the answer was yes, at the same frequency and rate as the public at large who have addresses and homes.

We hear a lot about the progress that Seattle has yet to make on the crisis of homelessness, and I agree that the implementation of Pathways Home is critical. We have a lot more work to do.

I want to recognize that our city departments, many philanthropic organizations, human service providers, and community members are creatively and compassionately working to assist vulnerable people right now.

Thanks to City Librarian Marcellus Turner and the Seattle Public Library Foundation, Hallie is available to support the Daily Readers and the library staff who serve all of us.

Putting an End to the Death Penalty

In our nation, we have chosen to legally sanction hundreds of peoples’ deaths by shooting, hanging, electrocuting, lethally injecting, or gassing in jail.

In the State of Washington, we have a moratorium to execution called by Gov. Inslee three years ago. However, without legislation abolishing the death penalty, those on death row could again face either lethal injection or hanging in our state.

There is little credible evidence the death penalty serves as a deterrent, and the costs of a death penalty prosecution is significantly more than bringing a criminal case to court with a life sentence penalty (See: Seattle University Death Penalty Cost Study 2015).

We also know “juries in Washington imposed a death sentence in a notably larger share of cases involving black defendants than in cases involving white or other defendants” (See: UW Professor Katherine Beckman’s 2014 study.)

Those moral issues, in addition to the point that victims’ families suffer while sentencing is delayed for years make the death penalty a bad option for any civilized society.

I oppose the death penalty, period. This should be the year the State of Washington joins nineteen other states and over 100 nations to abolish it.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Governor Jay Inslee, and former A.G. Rob McKenna joined forces to propose a bi-partisan bill in opposition of the death penalty.  Senator Mark Miloscia (R) and Representative Tina Orwall (D) introduced legislation to abolish the death penalty in our state (Read SB 5354 here).

Bob Ferguson stated,  “there is no role for capital punishment in a fair, equitable and humane justice system. The Legislature has evaded a vote on the death penalty for years. The public deserves to know where their representatives stand.”

Members of the Seattle City Council, Mayor Edward B. Murray, and City Attorney Pete Holmes joined me today in signing a letter in support of the bi-partisan legislation, and the letter can be viewed here.

How and why we continue to incarcerate millions of people in the US today—and leave hundreds on death row—are issues we must seriously re-examine and address.   I highly recommend Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy to everyone because he explores the questions at the roots.

Last year many of our Washington State Prosecuting Attorneys urged the legislature—if they fail to vote themselves—to submit the death penalty to the people for a vote. I am hopeful that this year our Legislature will take up the issue and pass the bipartisan legislation.  If the Legislature refuses to do so, we should submit the question for a state-wide vote.

I have faith in the people in this state to say we will no longer tolerate this state sanctioned violence. Join me in telling your legislators how strongly you feel about this.



Opioid Addiction Recommendations: Best Practices and a United Front

Seattle and King County face a heroin and opioid addiction crisis. The numbers are staggering–229 individuals died in 2015 from heroin and prescription overdoses in King County alone.

Despite the very real need, our region still suffers from a lack of services and treatment beds to address substance abuse. There are only sixteen detoxification beds in King County and treatment options are shockingly limited.

To be successful, we must approach heroin and opioid addiction holistically, compassionately, and through this public health lens.  As King County Prosecuting Attorney Satterberg wrote in a letter to the Board of Health dated January 19, 2017, “I want you to know that in this drug crisis, unlike the response to crack cocaine in the 80’s and 90’s, that I believe that the criminal justice system should not take a primary role, and that instead we should follow the lead of public health professionals.”

Impressive, Dan!

Making treatment available is the best way  to fight this crisis. As we know, putting users in jail is both expensive, demoralizing and has been unsuccessful in reducing the numbers of persons addicted.  And, after a person is released from jail with a felony record, the problems really begin.  There are few housing or job opportunities open and desperation sets in.

Too often we have heard stories of people who have a substance abuse disorder and have finally reached out for treatment, only to be put on a six-month waiting list. Six months is a lifetime when you are waiting for help.

As a member of the Seattle/King County Board of Public Health, my goal  is to implement proven best practices in Seattle to reverse this opioid crisis. This past October the Heroin and Opioid Addiction Taskforce released their recommendations to prevent opioid use disorder, to prevent overdoses, and to improve access to treatment and other supportive services for individuals experiencing opioid use disorder.


Today, I am proud the members of the Board of Health voted unanimously to pass a resolution in support of those recommendations.

As the report recommends, our region must increase the medically assisted treatment options available to individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders.   Alternatives such as methadone, buprenorphine, Suboxone  have shown to be extremely helpful for many.   See what San Francisco is successfully doing to promote both Public safety and public health.  We can do this too.

This past November I championed the Task Force’s recommendation by including money in our budget for a social worker to help implement a Buprenorphine First clinic at the Downtown public health location.

The clinic began serving clients this past Tuesday, and on the first day offered help to three new clients directly referred by the neighboring service facility.  Multiply that work every day this next year and we will have made a serious dent in the street-use problem.

This is the progress we need in our neighborhoods: wrap-around, low-barrier services treating people where they are and available immediately.  This saves people and saves money too.

The Opioid Addiction Taskforce report also recommends the region pilot two Community Health Engagement Locations (CHELs), one in Seattle and one elsewhere in King County. I have heard concerns regarding CHELs and I hope community members will take the time to understand the breadth of their importance.

CHELs will be more than supervised consumption sites for adults with substance use disorders,   They will also provide an indoor location where opioid and heroin users can access medically assisted treatment like buprenorphine, wrap-around social services and case management, basic medical treatment, peer support, health education, needle exchanges, overdose prevention and rapid linkages to detox services.  The goal is to get people up and on to healthy lives.

We cannot address the addiction crisis by blaming the users. This is an epidemic that is driven by more than poverty.  As public testimony showed today, it affects so many of us, and brave people spoke passionately about the impact heroin and pharmaceutical opioids have had on their relatives, their children, their parents, friends and neighbors.

Thanks to the Task Force we have a new road map and a direction to drive.