Discussing homeless on Jan. 9 are, from left, Associated Press Olympia correspondent Rachel La Corte, Rep. Nicole Macri (D-Seattle), Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), Sen. Hans Zeiger (R-Puyallup) and Rep. Morgan Irwin (R-Enumclaw). Photo by Leona Vaughn/WNPA News Service

Discussing homeless on Jan. 9 are, from left, Associated Press Olympia correspondent Rachel La Corte, Rep. Nicole Macri (D-Seattle), Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), Sen. Hans Zeiger (R-Puyallup) and Rep. Morgan Irwin (R-Enumclaw). Photo by Leona Vaughn/WNPA News Service

Senate Republicans propose alternative solutions to WA’s homelessness crisis

One suggestion would empower law enforcement and remove barriers to prosecution.

By Cameron Sheppard, WNPA News Service

Republican senators pitched their own ideas to address Washington state’s homelessness crisis following the supplemental budgets unveiled by Democratic lawmakers this week.

On Thursday, Feb. 27, Senate Republicans gathered the media to outline their preferred policy solutions – two days after the House and Senate Democrats proposed their supplemental operating budgets, each with millions in additional funding aimed at reducing the homeless population.

Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, who worked on the budget, which was approved in the Senate after a 33-16 vote on Thursday, said additional funds to develop and support affordable housing would make significant changes as soon as next year.

However, Republican lawmakers have been critical of these kinds of investments, and several said they are not confident this approach would have an impact within the next year.

Sen. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, said there is no end to the amount of money that can be spent on high-cost subsidized affordable housing.

“I would argue that we cannot subsidize our way out of this situation,” Zeiger said.

Zeiger said Washingtonians are expecting the Legislature to address the issue of homelessness this session. He urged that lawmakers must prioritize solutions that address the immediate challenge, maximize public investment and move as many people as possible toward self-sufficiency.

Zeiger expressed his appreciation for allocations made toward homelessness diversion efforts in the proposed budgets. He said diversion efforts help give people the support they need the moment they enter the homeless coordinated entry system, a service that works to give shelter to families and individuals at risk of being homeless.

“Resources for diversion are scarce across our state,” Zeiger said. “Diversion is a wise investment because it literally diverts people out of homelessness, saves us money, and allows us to spend money in other parts of the homelessness response system.”

Zeiger also sponsored a bill with bipartisan support that did not make it out of committee that would have created grant funding to incentivize cities to hire homeless individuals for city projects in exchange for decent wages, housing and vocational training.

Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, expressed his concern for public safety during the homelessness crisis. He was frustrated with instances in which homeless individuals with more than 30 criminal offenses on their record are released back onto the streets without prosecution.

Fortunato said he supported a policy to remove prosecutor discretion, forcing them to prosecute charges on homeless individuals after the first deferral.

“You cannot have this lawlessness and they are not exempt from the criminal justice system,” Fortunato said. “They need to be removed from the streets.”

Fortunato also suggested a policy that would allow law enforcement to pick out individuals who appear to be homeless with apparent poor hygiene and evaluate them for health and wellness, then decide if they will need additional help.

Fortunato pointed to the success of a similar policy that Florida had adopted. He acknowledged the policy’s potential to allow for police to profile individuals based on their appearance, but implied the potential for helping people was worth the risk.

Fortunato said the permissiveness of law enforcement to allow substance abuse and crime creates a “magnet” for homeless people to come from other regions.

“You must remove these people from the streets,” Fortunato said. “If it takes more incarceration, that’s what it takes.”

Citing time constraints, the Senate Democratic Caucus members and staff did not respond with comment after several phone and email requests.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@auburn-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.auburn-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Courtesy of governor.wa.gov
Inslee extends pause on counties advancing phases to July 28

A spike in cases could cause hospitalizations and deaths to rise soon.

Elected or appointed? King County weighs sheriff options

Voters could be asked to decide in November.

The Red Lion Inn at 1 South Grady Way in Renton is being used as temporary site to relocate individuals experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo.
Renton battles King County over temporary shelter at Red Lion Hotel

County officials believe emergency health order will supersede city’s move.

Owner of proposed Enumclaw Recycling Center ordered to close Auburn location

King County has been trying to shutter the Buckley Recycle Center for nearly 15 years, and claims the lack of progress at the Enumclaw site shows the owner has little interest in complying with county regulations.

A train route that would shuttle people between Eastern and Western Washington could tie in with the proposed ultra-high-speed rail between B.C. and Portland. Photo courtesy RobertStafford/Pixabay.com
State receives King County to Spokane rail study

It would take about eight and a half hours to reach the Inland Empire from Puget Sound.

Courtesy of Mountain View Fire and Rescue
Mountain View Fire and Rescue seeks levy on Aug. 4 primary ballot

Service area includes unincorporated King County near the cities of Auburn, Enumclaw and Kent.

Firefighters treat 3 in head-on collision | Fire blotter

Reporter staff Between June 29 and July 5, the Valley Regional Fire… Continue reading

Bret Chiafalo. File photo
Supreme Court says state can punish WA faithless electors

Justices: Presidential electors, including Everett man, must keep pledge to back popular vote winner

Courtesy of the Auburn School District
There will be school this fall in Auburn

The district is working on answering the question: What will it look like?

Most Read