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DESC workers win investments to address Seattle homelessness

The following is from SEIU HealthCare 1199NW:

SEATTLE (May 15, 2018) — SEIU Healthcare 1199NW union members from Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) in Seattle helped win an estimated $48 million in revenue for homelessness services Monday, putting significant and much needed financial resource to address the homelessness crisis in our city.

The Seattle City Council’s progressive Employee Head Tax and spending plan, led by Councilmembers M. Lorena Gonzalez and Teresa Mosqueda, will generate revenue for hundreds of new units of permanent supportive housing with services to match, rental assistance and master leasing options to leverage existing housing stock, urgent shelter solutions including enhanced shelter, innovative options, and emergency shelter alongside public health resources for these services, as well as human investments in outreach services and workforce.

“This funding will make a big dent in the services we provide to people and help our most vulnerable neighbors get off the streets,” said Julie Nordgren, Project Assistant at DESC.

Andrew Coak, Housing Assistance Case Manager at DESC, and member of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, served on the Progressive Tax on Business Task Force with labor, small business, and homelessness advocacy partners to craft the initial recommendation.

“What was voted today is the result of negotiation and compromise. While it is not the full amount that was recommended, this will have a significant impact for the people I serve,” Coak said. “Every unit of supportive housing that is built because of this effort is a win for our community. Every piece of lumber and steel that is erected by union represented labor to build housing that is affordable to the working people of Seattle is a win. What we have before us will make a difference. As a member of the progressive revenue task force that made the initial proposal recommendations, I am proud to support our council partners, with the backing of the labor community. This is a good start and there is much more to be done.”

Seattle is the third-ranked city for number of people experiencing homelessness in the country and many caseworkers and healthcare workers are only one crisis away from ending up without housing as well, in many cases living in the same low income housing as the clients they serve.

Workforce investments are a critical part of the package. Current jobs under Seattle contracts leave the workforce 23 – 76% behind their City of Seattle employee counterparts and current contracts are underfunded, resulting in recruitment and retention issues across the system. This spending plan begins to correct for this problem by investing millions over the life of the spending plan in this workforce.

“We work with the most vulnerable populations in Seattle, the people that this tax is intended to help. We have seen that supportive housing can do great things for people’s lives. Our work is the solution,” said Cassie Peltz, Residential Counselor.

SEIU HealthCare 1199NW is more than 29,000 nurses and healthcare workers across Washington state united for quality patient care and good careers in the healthcare facilities and agencies where they work. Learn more.

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