Stronger Families. Stronger Communities. Stronger Washington

Governor Uses Emergency Reserves For Homelessness
Author: peterabbarno
December 19, 2019

Homelessness has become a catastrophe; especially on the West Coast, and in particular, Seattle. Homelessness is not cause, but the result of substance abuse, mental illness, traumatic experiences, and the list can go on.

I wouldn’t criticize the Governor for where his heart is on this issue. However, we can’t merely house people and expect homelessness to disappear. The fastest growing population of homeless is children and the population of homeless seniors is expected to double in the next 5 years. I don’t want money just spent without focus! We need money invested on long-term viable solutions that end the cycle of intergenerational poverty and address homelessness among the innocent and most vulnerable in our community.

Peter Abbarno, Centralia City Councilor

The Governor proposes using $146 million in the current operating budget Emergency Reserve, and over $300 million over the course of the next three years. Many of the programs provide only temporary relief.

The Governor’s plan includes $66 million to “reduce the point-in-time count of unsheltered individuals by 1,890,” $1 million for a transitional housing pilot program for homeless youth, $26 million for housing and essential needs serving 2,200 people, $30 million for new enhanced shelters, and $15.4 million to provide permanent supportive housing for 1,080 people.

The Legislature will convene in January 2020 for a short session that is expected to last 60 days. Undoubtedly, the Legislature, which is controlled by democrats, will address these issues and the Governor’s proposal. At this point, the Governor is not proposing new taxes for his programs.

Successful plans to address homelessness must be flexible and allow local governments, local agencies, local faith based organizations, and local health and social service organizations to direct the funds where they are needed most. As I discussed with the Governor on his recent trip to Chehalis and the HUB City Severe Weather Shelter, Cookie cutter one-size-fits-all programs we see in King County-Seattle-Olympia don’t work everywhere and clearly aren’t even working there.

Peter Abbarno, Centralia City Councilor

The Governor’s full budget also leave us with many questions and doubts, which includes measures to address firearm violence, education, orca and salmon recovery, transportation, and more. The full budget proposal here.

It’s good that the governor didn’t propose new taxes, for a change, but he also wants nearly a billion dollars in additional spending at a time when there are already concerns about the sustainability of the current budget. His emphasis on housing seems to ignore government’s track record on addressing homelessness, and he missed opportunities to address issues that matter to all Washingtonians, like car tabs and repeat DUI offenders and property-tax relief for all low-income seniors. There’s a real contrast between what the governor views as important and what Senate Republicans have been hearing from the public.

Sen. John Braun, (R-Centralia) Republican leader on the Senate Ways and Means Committee

Washington State has the fifth-highest per-capita rate of homelessness of all U.S. states. Seattle has the third-highest among large cities in America with over 11,000 estimated homeless and unsheltered.

Centralia Councilmember Peter Abbarno was one of the guest speakers at the United Way of Lewis County Community Partnership Luncheon. He talked about the new direction the United Way of Lewis County has focused on in the fight against generational poverty. He said the various new ventures by United Way as highlighted in the luncheon, through cooperation and partnership, will make a real difference.

If we are truly to reduce poverty long-term and lasting, we need to strengthen homes and families, provide opportunity for financial independence, and deliver a pre-kindergarten system that puts every child on the pathway to a healthy and successful life,” Peter Abbarno said.

The Chronicle, September 27, 2019, United Way Partnership Luncheon