From The Field: Hawaii and Seattle Declare Homelessness States of Emergency

On November 2, Seattle, WA Mayor Ed Murray (D) and King County, WA Executive Dow Constantine (D) declared a homelessness state of emergency for Seattle and King County. On October 17, Hawaii Governor David Ige (D) declared a statewide homelessness state of emergency for Hawaii. Similar states of emergency have been declared recently in Los Angeles, CA and Portland, OR (see Memo, 10/5/2015), but Hawaii is the first state to take such action.

Both Hawaii and Seattle are experiencing unprecedented rates of people without any shelter. According to Scott Morisghe, Governor Ige’s Coordinator on Homelessness, Hawaii has the highest rate of homelessness per capita among the 50 states at 465 per 100,000 people. In Seattle, homelessness increased 21% from 2014 to 2015, and it grew 13% statewide. In his Declaration of Civil Emergency, Mayor Murray stated that 45 homeless persons have died on the city streets so far in 2015.

Hawaii’s emergency declaration is meant to accelerate the state’s allocation of $1.3 million for new shelters and services. This new funding is intended to serve 1,000 additional individuals in new shelter facilities. Governor Ige has indicated that he expects the programs and shelters funded by the state of emergency to be temporary.

The City of Seattle is committing $5.3 million and King County is promising $2 million of new funding for shelters and homeless services. Mayor Murray has stated that the $5.3 million will provide for 100 shelter beds along with expanded homeless outreach and prevention services. The new city funds will be generated from the sale of under-utilized city property. The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (Housing Alliance), an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, is encouraging the State of Washington to join the city and county by declaring a statewide state of emergency. 

Read Governor Ige’s Emergency Proclamation at:

Read Mayor Murray’s Frequently Asked Questions about the homelessness state of emergency at:

Read the Housing Alliance press statement calling on the State of Washington to declare a state of emergency at: