Homelessness Crisis to Dominate 2020 Session

While state lawmakers are facing many issues in the upcoming 2020 legislative session, a problem rapidly growing statewide has captured their attention. Washington House Republicans’ John Sattgast reports from the state Capitol.

SATTGAST: During a legislative preview at an Associated Press forum in Olympia Thursday, lawmakers from both parties in the House and Senate said the most challenging issue is. . .

IRWIN: ”Homelessness. . .”

SATTGAST: Blue-tarp housing, as some are calling it, spreading from bigger Washington cities into many rural and suburban communities across the state. Drug addiction, mental health issues, the lack of affordable housing, and increasing levels of crime colliding into a crisis level of homelessness.

WILCOX: “The people that are most in need of help from the government are those that have become cut off from their family, their community and faith.”

SATTGAST: Representative J.T. Wilcox is the House Republican leader. . .

WILCOX: “When we are not helping to provide some or all of those things, or provide opportunities for them to have closer human connections, then I think that we are failing them.”

SATTGAST: Governor Inslee proposing to tap $300 million dollars from the state’s Rainy-Day Fund for local shelter beds and housing assistance. But that’s one-time money Republicans say won’t address the root causes of an ongoing problem. Instead, their approach is a state match to local option taxes that would incentivize local governments to step up and address the crisis.

IRWIN: “And while I very much appreciate the governor taking this issue seriously in this session, I think his approach is a little bit too Olympia centric.”

SATTGAST: Representative Morgan Irwin, a police officer who patrols Seattle streets, says barriers against housing must be removed, laws must be enforced, and drug addicts must get treatment.

IRWIN: “These are things, for the most part, all four corners agree on. The parts that are really going to be tough going forward is how do we fund it? What makes sense? And how do we hold folks accountable for actually getting it done..”

SATTGAST: Lawmakers have only 60 days to figure it out. The legislative session begins Monday at noon.  John Sattgast, Olympia.

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