Time to stop funding homeless efforts that are not working
October 4, 2023
Government officials in our state continue to demand even more taxpayer money to battle the region’s homelessness problem.
Yet, while billions and billions of dollars have been spent on the issue, the problem continues to get worse. At the same time, the size and cost of all levels of government have dramatically increased in the past decade, with the homeless issue being the most-often stated reason for higher taxes to fund the liberals’ (who control all levels of government in Seattle, King County and at the state level) selfish goal to increase the size of government.
It is time for these officials to start answering tough questions about their failed policies which have literally wasted taxpayers’ money and allowed the suffering to continue on our streets. They also need to demonstrate that they are worthy stewards of public funds by being transparent and accountable for the money they spend.
“We need more of your money”
Despite a record that lacked any success, then CEO of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) Marc Dones stated earlier this year that the growing homeless bureaucracy needed $11.8 billion dollars (which equals $882,704 per each of the county’s 13,368 homeless individuals) to battle the homeless crisis. To put this outlandish request into perspective, the City of Seattle’s entire budget which pays for police, fire, roads, parks, dozens of social programs and a large, bloated bureaucracy is $7.4 billion in 2023.
Also remember, this request is coming from those who support policies which saw in 2022 more homeless individuals die on the streets and in temporary housing than moved into permanent housing.
Last month, Governor Jay Inslee said the state government needed more money to remove homeless encampments which have grown across the state on many Department of Transportation properties near I-5 and I-90. This request came despite the state government’s budget more than doubling in size during the past decade and multiple new taxes and fees (including the controversial carbon tax which has increased the cost of gas by nearly 50 cents a gallon).
Other liberal officials around the state have repeated the need for more public money. Yet there is a very important question all of these officials must respond to – why should taxpayers continue to pay higher and higher taxes to fund a homeless policy that has actually made the problem worse?
The rapid expansion of government
In 2015, King County Executive Down Constantine and then Seattle Mayor Ed Murray stood in front of the local media to declare the region’s homeless problem was an “emergency.” At that time, it was estimated that just over 10,000 people were homeless in King County. Today, despite the billions that have been spent, there are nearly 13,500.
It is nearly impossible to figure out how much homelessness has enlarged government budgets since the increased figures are buried deep within budgets. For example, the Seattle Fire Department has had to pay for overtime and more personnel due to the number of calls at homeless encampments. Also, departments that maintain parks, roads, and facilities have all seen increased cost due to the homeless crisis.
In 2017, the Puget Sound Business Journal estimated that more than a billion dollars was spent every year on the region’s homeless problem. It is easy to estimate this figure has more than doubled in the past six years.
Earlier this year KOMO News estimated that the City of Seattle alone spent nearly a billion dollars in the past decade on the homeless issue. This figure only included contracts authorized by the Human Services Department (HSD) contracts and did not include the cost for affordable housing or the many hidden costs described above.
Since 2015, the cost of government has skyrocketed at all levels.
The Washington State budget was $38.2 billion in 2015. In 2023 it is $65.8 billion (a 72% increase).
Politicians have repeatedly stated that homelessness is the government’s most important issue. So if government has dramatically increased its size and cost to combat the issue, where has all the money gone? Why has homelessness increased by over 30% while spending all this money?
Not only is government doing a very poor job of spending our money to combat the problem, but they are also not equipped to determine what are the most effective programs to help those who are homeless.
As we reported last week, the Discovery Institute just released a study which revealed that the KCRHA was handing out millions of public dollars to non-profits and not requiring them to provide data on how many people they helped get into permanent housing. This is incredibly important information if the government bureaucracy is going to effectively spend funds to help those who are homeless.
Simply put, government, and those who control government, have not demonstrated that current homeless policies and spending methods are worthy of more taxpayer funds. They need to show the public that public money is being spent to end the suffering of those on the streets and they have a method in place to stop funding efforts that are not working.