Poll finds support for long term solutions in the homelessness fight, little trust in politicians in King County
Angela King talks with Seattle Times Project Homeless reporter Vianna Davila about a new Seattle Times /Elway Research public opinion poll of King County residents.
The following transcript is lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
So, bottom line, what did you learn?
Vianna Davila: I would say the main thing that we learned is that people really seem to favor long term solutions to the problem. So they want to see more affordable housing. They want to see more mental health and substance abuse treatment. And they seem to want to prioritize getting at the root causes of homelessness vs. getting people off the streets. They seem to see a need to deal with the bigger issues and not just the immediate ones.
Why conduct the poll in the first place?
Davila: I think we all remember the contentious head tax debate last spring. Everything in the city was just like at a boiling point. And we wanted to know: How do people really feel about this when we're not necessarily in the middle of this very contentious political debate? How do they really feel about the problem? But also: What do they see as potential solutions? We wanted to go to county-wide to get those answers and not just in the city of Seattle.
Any solution stand out to you?
Davila: The one that got the most support or the highest support was mental health and substance abuse treatment: 94 percent of those polled said they strongly approved that. In fact, 100 percent of young people aged 18 to 35 said they approve that. And then same with affordable housing: 81 percent of folks said that they really approve that as a measure. And again, 100 percent of young people aged 18 to 35 said they supported that. Those look to us like longer term solutions and not just removing tents as the first thing that we should do.
What would you say is the big message that lawmakers need to take away from this poll?
Davila: Stuart Elway is the pollster that we worked with from Elway Research, and he said there's no silver bullet. This poll doesn't seem to suggest that there's a single answer. So I do want to be clear on that. But lawmakers should know, again, people want to see more mental health and drug treatment. They want to see more affordable housing.
However, they indicate they don't have a lot of confidence in their elected officials to solve the problem. They do not seem to favor spending more money on the issue. Very few people said they thought that was a problem that we haven't spent enough. And they seem to really feel like that we've we've put a lot of money into the wrong approaches. Young people in particular seem to show that they felt money has been spent in the wrong way. So I think elected officials need to sort of sit down with that. Certainly this could get interesting with council races coming up in Seattle.