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Seattleites demand accountability on the millions already spent on homeless crisis

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SEATTLE -- There is a new movement in Seattle and it’s demanding accountability for all the money city leaders have spent on homelessness.

“Two hundred million (dollars) was spent in King County last year, $17,000 for every man woman and child, and the problem got worse. I beg you take a step back,” Matt Dubin told the Seattle City Council on Monday.

Dubin is a Seattle attorney now running to be a state lawmaker because of the homeless crisis.

Q13 News sat down with Dubin 24 hours after the City Council, on a 9-0 vote, approved an employee tax on the biggest businesses to help fund the fight against homelessness.

“We spend more per capita on homelessness than almost any large city in the country and yet we are the third worst,” Dubin said.

Click here to see Seattle's proposed 5-year spending plan for the business tax

Dubin said the city needs to work with experts and nonprofits who can find creative and less expensive ways to fight the crisis. He supports tiny homes. But he said simply building affordable housing isn’t going to solve the crisis.

He said the city is lacking services dealing with drug addiction and mental illness. He said it’s not a revenue problem, but a mismanagement of those funds.

Dubin said in the past seven years the city’s revenue more than doubled to $4.8 billion because of economic prosperity and tax revenue coming in. He now questions how the city is using all those funds, not just on homelessness but on other projects.

“I think there is a lot of stubborn pride,” Dubin said.

“I am sorry, there needs to be an audit right now,” north Seattle resident Jennifer Aspelund said.

Aspelund said she’s voted for taxes in the past to fight homelessness but now she feels taxpayer dollars have been wasted.

She wants to know how every penny of the $50 million in 2017 was spent.

“Put a link on your page that the public can hit that shows where has the money gone,” Aspelund suggested of the Seattle government.

A City Council spokesperson says the dollars are tracked by the Mayor’s Office and broken up by different departments.

When you look at the Department of Human Services, for example, you see a pie graph breaking down the dollars.

About 34% went to permanent housing support and 50% got eaten up in the emergency category --  things like hygiene centers, authorized encampments and emergency shelters.

But that kind of a breakdown is not accountability for Aspelund.

“You have a lot of people with their hands out. You don't have any performance results to show for it. No, that's when you stop, you stop giving the money away. You got to be held accountable,” Aspelund said.

When the council passed the $50 million-a-year head tax, they left the exact spending decision for another day.

There is a general guideline of how the money could be used, with council members vowing to use two-thirds of the funds to build affordable housing. The mayor on Monday also said she’s hearing the concerns, promising to account for every penny spent.

“The people of Seattle have my pledge as their mayor I am going to work as hard as I can to make sure that every penny is spent wisely and efficiently and makes a difference,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said.

Durkan has until December 14 to submit a final spending proposal.

She says she will also hire an independent economist and appoint an oversight committee.

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