Naming the homeless man killed on Monday, after a suspected drunk driver crashed into a roadside homeless encampment, State Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, took aim at Seattle's handling of homelessness.
“Walter L. Burton is dead because of our inaction,” Sen. Miloscia said during a Tuesday news conference.
"I question the management and competence of leadership of everyone involved. We need a real plan with real accountability. Seattle, quite frankly needs adult supervision,” he continued.
Miloscia, who is running for State Auditor, said if elected he will begin to audit all homeless programs, to identify what works and what doesn’t work. Regardless of the November election, he plans to introduce a bill ahead of the next legislative session that would crack down on unauthorized encampments.
Miloscia’s proposal would prohibit camping on sidewalks, school grounds, or under highway overpasses. It would also prohibit RV camping in unauthorized areas.
One of the most controversial pieces of the proposal includes language to “preempt” local governments from setting their own guidelines on encampments, meaning cities like Seattle would have to comply with state guidelines.
State funding would depend on compliance with state and federal health and drug laws, meaning no money for sites that allow drug use.
“If Seattle ever wants Olympia to help out with their homeless crisis, they need to steer away from the path they're going and giving people the right to encamp anywhere in the city, and develop plans that get real results,” Miloscia described.
But when pressed on what happens to the homeless in these encampments, if not enough shelter beds are available, Miloscia called upon Seattle to step up and figure it out.
“They have until the end of next session to get their act together," Miloscia said.
“All of us agree that we should be looking at what's working and investing more deeply in those things, and if there are programs that aren’t working, we should be redirecting,” said Rachel Myers, Executive Director of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.
“I think that conversation is happening pretty widely in our community right now,” she continued.
Myers notes that systems are already in place to audit service providers and hold them accountable.
Her organization and other homelessness advocates will be weighing in on policy proposals introduced next legislative year.
“They're not going to want to see bandaid fixes and cleaning up encampments. That's not the solution to the problem,” said Myers.
While she credits Sen. Miloscia for raising the issue and starting renewed debate, she questions reducing the power and decision making of local jurisdictions.
“Generally, it’s a good thing for local communities to have options to create laws and create policy to solve their own problems.”
While the policy debate continues, the growing problem remains a key election year issue as well.
“We’ve never seen it being raised by almost every candidate running for office,” Myers said. “I think that’s because homelessness is becoming so much more visible because it’s growing, and the housing crisis is impacting not just the homeless but middle income having a hard time affording housing as well.”
KING 5 reached out to Sen. Miloscia’s opponent in the race for Auditor. Democratic candidate Pat McCarthy was not available for an on camera interview on Tuesday. However, a spokesperson for McCarthy released the following statement:
“Pat’s been working to solve our region’s homelessness problem in her role as Pierce County Executive. She’d continue doing so as State Auditor, ensuring that our tax dollars are spent wisely on proven, data-driven solutions. It is disingenuous to think a performance audit alone can solve this crisis.”
Copyright 2016 KING