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Current Status: Volunteer builders and architects have worked together to transform the winter-only men’s shelter in Lincoln Center to bring it up to code so it can be used year-round. They have my gratitude and respect for this work. However, due to problems inherent in the location, this shelter will only be operational for three years. The last snapshot count of homeless people in Bellevue came to 900.  So yes, we need to continue to work together towards a solution to support and house the homeless population in Bellevue. .

What’s not working: The Lincoln Center shelter is a temporary solution delivered by Bellevue’s industrious business community. Again, they strapped on tool belts and “got it done,” while the city council gave us little more than strategies and studies. Current city council members have scheduled another Shelter to be built in Bellevue’s Eastgate neighborhood.   Note: It is a permanentshelter – which offers only a temporarysolution, and   will not be open for several years.  The upshot is that under current city council’s vision, we are still years away from permanent solutions.

What I support:  The focus of city council should be on housing. FIRST.  Shelters should not be designed as “the” solution. Shelters should be temporary and function as in-take centers with staffing to support coordinated care through case management and housing navigators to help place individuals in permanent living spaces.  The Housing First approach, piloted in New York and getting scaled up in Finland for use across Europe, works. Several nights of quality sleep in a room or studio behind a locked door transforms traumatized minds and situations from chaos to manageability.  Because people with a room don’t fear being attacked or ripped off, their psychosis induced by sleep deprivation goes down. Substance abuse and mental illness flare-ups subside. They are able to focus on long-term solutions like medical treatment and job readiness.

Action NOW: RIGHT NOW this can be achieved with low income housing units as well as clustered housing in hotels. In addition, after building community awareness and targeting those individuals that have recently experienced homelessness due possibly to a medical condition that left them in debt or a serious illness of a loved one and they were the primary caregiver forcing them to miss work which lead to the loss of a job and then the loss of housing due to unpaid rent. These folks need just a small amount of time to get back on their feet. Just taking those that have no long-term history of homelessness or other medical or physical issues we could partner with the community to provide housing support. There are Bellevue residents living in large, nearly empty houses. Empty bedrooms can be rented and/or subsidized quickly and affordably to homeless people NOW. The plan city council approved three years ago allows for this flexibility. The extra information to log and track this solution could be integrated into the City of Bellevue’s newly unveiled paperless system. Kudos to heroic volunteers who built the Lincoln Center site. But the current city council has been asleep at the wheel thinking this is not a problem that Bellevue has to be concerned with – that it is just a Seattle problem. They are wrong we are a strong and resourceful community who will not tolerate any of our citizens left with the street as their only option. Young children, teens, single moms with families, and so many down on their luck need and deserve more from their elected officials. The business community alone should not be shouldered with the city council’s responsibility to provide leadership to permanent solutions to homelessness.

Seattle is addicted to bad narratives about homelessness
After 15 years, Seattle’s radical experiment in no-barrier housing is still saving lives
The homelessness paradox: Why do advanced economies still have people who live on the streets?
Addressing homelessness with data analytics: A data-driven approach to homelessness
Here’s how Finland solved its homelessness problem
Housing First Europe Hub

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