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Photo: Ed Murray/Flickr

During his annual State of the City address delivered from the North Seattle Idris Mosque, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced his plan to seek a $55 million per-year property-tax levy to address Seattle’s homeless crisis.

Mayor Murray has asked billionaire tech entrepreneur Nick Hanauer and Daniel Malone, executive director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center, to lead an advisory group tasked with working out the details, reports The Seattle Times.

After declaring a homelessness state of emergency last year, the city budgeted $108 million for homelessness services combined over the last two years, more than under any mayor in Seattle history.

“But as anyone can see from the dystopian scenes on the streets and the disarray on our sidewalks, and as those who are living in unsafe encampments and outside can attest themselves: This has not been enough. Not enough for those suffering from addiction. Not enough for those who have been victims of crimes, like the young teenage girls who have been trapped in encampments and trafficked for sex. Not enough for the three toddlers found without parents under the Spokane Street Viaduct. We must do more to address the dangers faced by those living in unauthorized encampments,” said Mayor Murray in his speech.

On Wednesday, Mayor Murray temporarily activated the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to accelerate and coordinate Seattle’s response to the homelessness crisis.

“I am activating the Emergency Operations Center because 15 months ago, I declared a State of Emergency in the hopes of a significant increase in support from the federal government. Regrettably, little help has come.We must face reality. Developing a national housing and homelessness agenda is not a priority for the new president’s administration,” said Mayor Murray.

According to a statement published by the Mayor’s office, the EOC’s work will include:

1. Accelerating the implementation of Pathways Home, the City’s plan to address homelessness and the guiding principles of getting individualized services to people living unsheltered and getting them inside quickly.

2. Launching the Navigation Team, a specially trained group of outreach workers and Seattle Police officers. Navigation Team members will go into unauthorized encampments throughout the city to help identify and implement individual solutions that break down barriers preventing unsheltered people from moving indoors.

3. Addressing trash and associated public health hazards to provide a safer environment for both people living unsheltered and the community at-large. People living in unauthorized encampments are more vulnerable to crime and abuse, making this work critical to their safety.

The mayor said he hopes the City Council will put the $55 million per year property tax levy for five years on the August ballot. He is also challenging the city’s business community to come up with an additional $25 million over five years.

“Consistent with the best-practices outlined in Pathways Home, this would allow us to invest in mental health treatment, in addiction treatment and in getting more people into housing and off the streets,” said Mayor Murray.

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