When Real Change went to print this week, a few things were still in the air. Will we live, for example, under an authoritarian proto-fascist regime beginning in 2017? On Tuesday, I did not know the answer to that.
But here’s what I did know: The data is in and the evidence is only growing. Seattle is one of the whitest cities in the U.S. and getting whiter.
Whiter than Salt Lake City. Whiter than an NPR driveway moment in upper Queen Anne. Whiter than an L.L.Bean outlet store in Connecticut.
And now, by following best practices as recommended by the Deptartment of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Seattle is about to get even whiter.
At issue, is the shift to Rapid Rehousing as a primary strategy for moving people from homeless to housed.
This program consists of issuing housing vouchers, good for three to nine months, that are spent in the private rental market. When the voucher expires, people must either assume full rental cost, move or be evicted.
And good luck finding anywhere here to take your voucher; $1,000 bucks or so doesn’t go far.
Much of Rapid Rehousing’s reputation for success comes from Houston, where homelessness has been reduced by half. But, as always, the devil’s in the details.
An average rental in Houston goes for $967. Here, it’s $1,906. And then there’s their 11-percent vacancy rate to our squeaky tight 1.5 percent.
Details, says Seattle. You want to be homeless, or you want to be somewhere else?
It is well known that people of color are disproportionately homeless in Seattle and pretty much everywhere else. Native Americans, for example, are homeless here at a rate that exceeds their population by a factor of seven.
Want housing? Move. Out of the city. Maybe even out of the county. Away from your culture and relationships and life. Go.
And here’s the thing. Despite being homeless policy du jour from hud, Rapid Rehousing is still fairly new and untested. The best study available spans just
What is the long-term success rate? Don’t know. Short term? Depends who you ask.
Just 241 families received Rapid Rehousing in Seattle in 2015. The program wasn’t even tried with single homeless people until this year. In the first half of 2016, just 98 single adults were placed.
So, by all means, full speed ahead.
On the strength of such evidence, hud has directed localities to funnel government dollars to private landlords. That would be the same HUD that gives $70 billion in tax deductions to mostly white homeowners each year, while they direct just $44.8 billion to low-income housing assistance and sentence public housing to death by paper cuts.
And now, HUD wants us to whiten up Seattle just a little bit more. And the human services industry has been directed to collaborate.
“How awful. Why hasn’t this policy been run through the city of Seattle’s Race and Social Justice lens,” you might ask?
Turns out, it has. Here’s what they said. I’ll paraphrase.
First, it’s kind of weird that the federal Homeless Management Information System database has no way to track results by race. They should probably fix that in future versions. Meanwhile, we should be tracking this, not that any plans are currently in place to do so.
And second, we have a problem. Given the lack of data connecting race to results, all we can do is give contracts to agencies that serve people of color. But they are so few, and homeless people of color are so many. What to do?
A series of half-baked and contradictory thoughts follow. Maybe we should separate housing resources from “culturally specific” case work altogether? Or, maybe we should do the opposite, and increase funding to those groups instead.
Or maybe we should make agencies with contracts do the race and social justice training. Or just strictly enforce existing non-discrimination policies.
None of which addresses the issue Rapid Rehousing raises: Seattle has just committed to exporting its poor as a matter of official policy. And in White Seattle City Hall, only the sound of crickets was heard.