Mayor Ed Murray, flanked by HSD director Catherine Lester and All Home KC director Mark Putnam, announces the city’s new RFP for $30 million in homelessness services. Photo by Casey Jaywork

Mayor Ed Murray, flanked by HSD director Catherine Lester and All Home KC director Mark Putnam, announces the city’s new RFP for $30 million in homelessness services. Photo by Casey Jaywork

Seattle to Award $30 Million in Homeless Services Contracts

Amid a larger shift toward performance metrics, the city will engage in a competitive bidding process for the first time in a decade.

Wednesday, Seattle’s mayor announced that the city has $30 million in homeless services contracts up for grabs. Those contracts, which have not been opened up to competitive bidding in some time, make up much of the $50 million the city spends each year in homeless response.

“Today, for the first time in a decade, the city is re-bidding $30 million in homeless service contracts,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray Wednesday morning at the Emergency Operations Center in Pioneer Square. The location in Pioneer Square was chosen in part because the EOC is where much of the city’s current work to deliver services to homeless people occurs.

The move follows a recommendation made last year by consultant Barbara Poppe and others that the city should shift from its current portfolio of homeless services, which has gradually grown into place over the years, to a competitive, metrics-based model. As we reported earlier, some of the specific recommendations are controversial.

Homelessness is an ever-worsening crisis in Seattle and King County, with thousands of people sleeping outside every night and even more in unstable living situations, such as couchsurfing. The crisis is largely caused by the drought of affordable housing in Seattle’s red-hot rental housing market.

From the Poppe report, said Murray, “we learned that our priorites were not aligned with the best practices. We had over the decades disproportionately spent more money on temporary remedies, rather than on permenant hosuing or on diverting people from becoming homeless in the first place.” After years of reacting to the crisis, the mayor hopes to transform Seattle’s homelessness response system to a well-oiled, data-driven, forward-thinking machine.

“Our paramount mission,” he said, “is helping people get off the streets, out of the shelter system and into permanent housing.”

In addition to the shift toward competitive metrics, the city’s new contracts add “new explictness and intention around racial equity targets,” said Lester. Murray added that black King County residents are five times more likely to become homeless than whites. “The programs we fund must prioritize ending the racial disparities in this system.”

cjaywork@seattleweekly.com

This story has been updated.




Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

File photo
Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance
Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

Freshwater variety of kokanee salmon from Lake Sammamish. File photo
Encouraging numbers for kokanee salmon spawn count

Lake Sammamish kokanee aren’t out of the woods by any stretch, but… Continue reading

In this file photo, Tayshon Cottrell dons his graduation cap and gown, along with a face mask reading: “Wear it! Save America” at Todd Beamer High School’s virtual graduation walk recording on May 20, 2020, in Federal Way. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Law gives Washington high school seniors leeway to graduate

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that can waive some requirements for students who were on track before the pandemic.

File photo
Study shows Washingtonians exceeded ‘heavy drinking’ threshold in 2020

The survey suggests Washingtonians drank more than 17 alcoholic beverages a week on average.

Mercer Island School District first-graders returned to in-person classes on Jan. 19, 2021. Here, Northwood Elementary School students head into the building. Photo courtesy of the Mercer Island School District
Governor: Educators are now eligible for coronavirus vaccine

“This should give educators more confidence,” Jay Inslee said. Other frontline workers could soon be next.

Malden, after a wildfire burned down 80% of the town’s buildings in Eastern Washington. Courtesy photo
DNR commissioner seeks $125 million to fight wildfires

In Washington state last September, some 600,000 acres burned within 72 hours.

Washington State Supreme Court Justices (back row, L-R) Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Mary I. Yu, G. Helen Whitener, (front row, L-R) Susan Owens, Charles W. Johnson, Steven C. Gonzalez, Barbara A. Madsen and Debra L. Stephens.
Justices strike down Washington state drug possession law

Police must stop arresting people for simple possession.

In Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan, which was announced Jan. 28, restaurants can reopen at a maximum 25% capacity and a limit of six people per table. Inslee recently announced all counties will be staying in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan for the next several weeks. Pictured: People enjoy outdoor dining last summer in downtown Kent. Courtesy photo
Inslee: All of Washington to stay in Phase 2 for a few weeks

The governor issued a weekslong pause on regions moving backward, but has yet to outline a Phase 3.

Most Read