SEATTLE– It’s no secret the homeless crisis in the Emerald City is bad and only getting worse. That’s why Seattle City Hall is rolling out the welcome mat for people living on the street. It’s part of Mayor Jenny Durkin’s plan to get 500 homeless individuals into temporary housing by the end of the summer.
"A lot better than them being out on the street," says John Streeter.
He starts his day around 4 a.m. at City Grind Espresso, hours before City Hall opens to the public. But, he'll soon have a lot of company when the city opens the main lobby to 120 people that have no place else to go in the overnight hours. It's in addition to the 60 sleeping mats the city has rolled out on the ground-floor lobby for years.
"So many people are homeless in this city with so many riches," says Julie Howell. "And this country with so many riches. We've got to find solutions."
Howell says she's disappointed more isn't being done to help those in dire need. But, this week the City Council approved Mayor Jenny Durkin's $13 million plan to get 500 people off the street who are homeless and into new temporary shelter in the next 90 days. That includes about 125 spots in new tiny-house villages in locations throughout the city.
But, critics say it's still not enough, with more than 6,000 people in this year's annual "One Night Count". It's a 13 percent jump from last year. And the concern at City Hall is the same one with every place homeless encampments have popped up. Vandalism and trash -- and lots of it.
"RVs, you've got the homeless camps and there's just trash all over the place," says Steve Storgaard, who takes the train in every day and sees piles of trash strewn along the tracks through the Sodo neighborhood as he comes into downtown.
But, at the coffee shop, Streeter says he's confident the security and cleaning teams can handle any mess -- and says there's been no problems with the ground-floor lobby's use as a homeless shelter. Streeter says he's more concerned about just how many people these days are priced out of costly Seattle.
"In this economy," says Streeter, "we're one paycheck away (from being homeless). I think a lot of people are not too far from where I've been in my life. So, yes, I have zero problem with it."
The Salvation Army currently runs the ground-floor homeless shelter and will also run the one in the main lobby, too. The main lobby is expected to be used as a homeless shelter for the first time the night of June 29.