As students living in Seattle, commuting through downtown daily, we are very aware that we are in a state of crisis. Homelessness and poverty run rampant through our city, and with the threat of budgetary cuts, these problems are bound to get worse unless changes are made.
According to The Seattle Times, there are more than 3,772 people in King County without shelter, a 21-percent increase in 2015.
Victims of domestic violence are turned away every day from New Beginnings, a shelter and care facility for people experiencing domestic violence. At its current capacity, there is only one bed for every 14 people. So if poverty, homelessness and violence is on the rise, why isn’t the mayor putting more money toward health and human services?
From the outside, it may look like Mayor Ed Murray’s proposed 2016 budget cuts hardly any services, but just below the surface, it becomes clear that is untrue.
Major cuts in funding
According to the Seattle Human Services Coalition, the mayor’s 2016 budget has decreased the inflation adjustment from 2.3 percent to 0.8 percent. With that dramatic a decline, food banks, domestic violence shelters, community clinics and many more human service providers will need to substantially decrease their services.
The Basic Health Plan (Medicaid) enrollment has gone from serving 105,000 to 32,000, due to budget cuts in the last three years. Even today, human services struggle to keep up with the need from our community. Cutting funding even more would be devastating.
Much of the money that could go toward health and human services is being awarded to public safety and transportation efficiency instead. While some people may agree with this proposed change, we believe that this is an unnecessary use of funding, especially when there are record numbers of homeless and food-insecure individuals in our community.
Health and human services provide for more than simply the homeless and the hungry population; they also serve women struggling with emotionally and physically abusive relationships. Would you deny these people a place to go? A place to be safe and secure?
“It’s never enough,” said Ginny Ware, the manager of the transitional housing program at New Beginnings.
If the proposed budget is passed as is, an even greater number of people struggling to survive won’t receive that simple help their government is capable of providing.
The public safety budget is already the biggest out of all the general fund portions. In the 2016 budget, it is being awarded $300 million more toward employing 30 more officers and arming them with body cameras. While public safety is important and body cameras could improve police accountability, if the health and human service organizations were getting the funding they needed, criminal activity would actually decrease.
According to an article published on The Guardian, a fifth of all homeless people have committed a crime to get off the streets. Homelessness, domestic violence and poverty are all issues that pertain to public safety. These people face dangers every day, so ask yourself, why shouldn’t human services be the top priority of the budget?
With homelessness and poverty in Seattle rapidly increasing and the funding for public services becoming less and less every year, isn’t time that we make a change? In fact, it’s best time for us as citizens of this city to stand up and voice our concerns about the 2016 budget.
Imagine waking up on the streets of Downtown Seattle, you’re hungry and need shelter but those services cannot provide for you because they are at capacity — wouldn’t that make you want to change the budget?
STELLA HARVEY, DANE JACOBSON and SOPHIA TOWNSEND are students at The Center School in Queen Anne. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.