Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and his Paul G. Allen Family Foundation will donate $30 million to Seattle for building a new facility to house and support homeless people, according to a press release from Mayor Ed Murray’s office. The city will pitch in another $5 million for operations and maintenance. Mercy Housing Northwest will operate the facility. No details are yet available about the location, design, or schedule.
According to the release, the center will be “an innovative, permanent supportive housing and onsite services community that will serve as a resource hub for Seattle-area families with children who are experiencing homelessness.” 1,684 families are currently waiting for housing in King County, and more than 3,498 Seattle Public School students were homeless at some point during the 2015-2016 school year.
“Paul Allen understands the homelessness crisis requires everyone in our community, particularly our business leaders, to help,” said Murray in the release. “This commitment is an example of the incredible difference our philanthropic and business leaders can make in our community, as I called on others to do during my State of the City speech this year. Thank you to Paul Allen, his family, and the foundation for making this incredibly generous investment to address this crisis.” Allen is also the co-founder and chair of the Seattle development company Vulcan, Inc.
Seattle’s homeless population has been growing for decades, and in the past two years or so the crisis has become one of the city’s central political problems. In response, the mayor has escalated both the city’s efforts to place campers in housing and Seattle’s longtime policy of chasing homeless people who can’t or won’t accept services around the city in an endless game of Whack-a-Mole. The most immediate cause of the crisis is Seattle’s demand-driven housing market, though inequality and declining public services also contribute.
Earlier this year, the mayor proposed a property tax to fund $55 million in homelessness remediation, to be approved by voters on the fall ballot. He later cancelled it, citing new plans to run a larger, sales-tax based ballot measure with King County next year. Murray’s HALA plan is tackling the longer-term problem of expanding Seattle’s housing stock, affordable and otherwise.
In a press release, city Councilmember and Human Services and Public Health committee chair Sally Bagshaw responded to news of Allen’s influx of Benjamins. “I’m truly thankful to Paul Allen and his foundation for reinvesting $30 million in our community,” she said. “More families will be housed, more children stabilized and more people given a second chance…[The] Paul G. Allen Foundation now joins regional leaders including Starbucks, Amazon, the Raikes Foundation and others who are investing in innovative solutions to homelessness. With these dollars, we can put our arms around our neighbors who need our support.
“This is a truly wonderful day.”
As we reported last year, Bagshaw has previously blocked attempts by Councilmember Mike O’Brien and civil rights groups to rein-in the mayor’s roving encampment evictions. Asked repeatedly during an interview last week whether she has any intention of returning to the issue of rules limiting homeless encampment evictions, Bagshaw repeatedly changed the subject.
This post has been updated.