Tacoma is grappling with a homelessness crisis that cannot be ignored. While our city has made progress in finding workable solutions, people experiencing homelessness still need more access to mental health and/or substance abuse treatment – two challenges often accompanying homelessness. Our community – from homeowners and businesses to the vulnerable people experiencing homelessness – faces significant public health risks due to trash, debris, and human waste.
Our city has also experienced a surge in criminal activity through the years. Data shows increased criminal activity in areas near homeless encampments, including near city-operated homeless shelters. This reality threatens the safety of vulnerable people experiencing homelessness who want services offered by shelters.
To address homelessness effectively, a comprehensive approach is required. Our city needs to implement compassionate assistance to vulnerable people experiencing homelessness. That means actively connecting them with the resources they need to transition to the next part of their lives. It also means upholding public health and safety standards in communities.
I proposed an ordinance banning unsanctioned encampments within ten blocks of a city-operated shelter and near mapped waterways to address serious sanitation and public safety issues. The City Council passed my ordinance last year. Already, we have seen positive results in helping vulnerable people experiencing homelessness access valuable resources. We have also seen results in improving sanitation and safety, especially when comparing areas where encampments are permitted.
I am proud of the progress our city has made in addressing homelessness in many other areas as well. Since 2020, we have opened new temporary shelters. We allocated the largest share of our American Rescue Plan Act funding toward building housing for the most vulnerable people in the community. The city has also expanded funding for substance abuse and mental health services.
But I know more work must be done. Our city must continue partnering with non-profit organizations to ensure people experiencing homelessness have access to needed services to help them. That means investing in more shelters that offer mental health and substance abuse treatment, job training, placement, and – simply put – a safe and clean environment.
I remain committed to championing effective and compassionate solutions, such as investing in affordable housing, mental health resources, addiction treatment access, and public safety funding in the years to come.