As a family doctor in Seattle, I take care of numerous patients experiencing homelessness. The toll this takes on their bodies is impossible to ignore. Sleep deprivation, chronic stress, physical and sexual assault, temperature extremes, and malnutrition all weather the body rapidly. As a physician sworn to preserve and prolong life, it is profoundly disturbing to come up against such profane and preventable degradation on a daily basis.
For this reason, I joined the Housing For All Coalition last night as they put forth a call to action to a packed hall at the Seattle Labor Temple. Speakers from the Transit Rider’s Union, Socialist Alternative Seattle, Nickelsville, SHARE/WHEEL, and DESC each spoke to the urgency of ending Seattle’s housing crisis. While each speaker brought a unique perspective, including the perspective of the formerly and currently homeless, they all emphasized the importance of increasing access to both affordable permanent housing and safe temporary shelter. Expanding these services will cost money and for that reason City Councilmembers Kirsten Harris-Talley and Mike O’Brien proposed a per-employee head tax last October. At 4.8 cents per-hour, per-employee, this tax on businesses with annual gross revenues more than $5 million was expected to raise about $24 million for housing. In November, it was narrowly voted down by a 5-4 vote. However, the city council instead agreed to establish a Progressive Revenue Task Force on Housing and Homelessness to refine the proposal. The task force is meant to deliver its recommendations no later than February 26th so that they will be ready for implementation on March 26th.
However, given the risk of delay or dilution without public pressure, the Housing For All Coalition is calling on Seattle residents to contact both the Mayor and the Council to emphasize that this remains a high priority. They’ve even gone so far as to make a website to simplify the process of sending an email in support of closing the housing gap with progressive revenue: transitriders.org/action.
I’ve already contacted my Councilmember, Bruce Harrell, and Mayor Durkan and I hope you’ll join me.
If you want to keep up to date on further events in this campaign, you should sign up for email updates from the Transit Riders Union here. They will be organizing door-knocking campaigns and community meetings over the next few weeks, so click the “I want to get more involved” box if you want to commit some time to the cause.
Finally, every Saturday from 1 to 4pm the Transit Riders Union will be hosting Action Meetings focused on the Housing For All campaign. These meeting are held in the Community Room at The Frye Apartments (223 Yesler Way) and no RSVP is necessary.