Trans activists, socialists, and 'chronically homeless' sit on board to oversee recommendations for Seattle's housing crisis

"I have experience with working with youth, young adults... the younger generation of us. I also have lived experience with being homeless as well."

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
The newly appointed members of a board tasked with overseeing Seattle's government-managed housing program for people who are homeless and without income, up to those making middle-class salaries or 120 percent of the area median income, gathered last Friday morning for the first time at a Seattle City Council meeting.
As part of the new social housing, rent will be set according to what people are able to pay. According to the Public Development Authority Board, proceeds will go towards paying off the construction and operational costs of the building and any excess profit will be reinvested into building new affordable housing.

Earlier this year, Seattle voters approved I-135 which created the Seattle Social Housing Developer which will use taxpayer funds to create plans for social housing. Funds for building and maintaining social housing will come from government bonds.

The initiative also created the 13-member Public Development Authority Board which was appointed by various entities in Seattle.

Defund the police advocate and Democratic Socialist of America Councilmember Tammy Morales said of the appointees, “This board represents a broad array of experience and knowledge, from lived experience of housing instability, homelessness, and accessing services in our current ecosystem, to public finance, labor representation, public policy, non-profit affordable housing development, social housing, and regional planning experience."

The board, introduced by Morales is a collection of self-identifying socialists, chronically homeless, activists, policy wonks, big labor, and those who have been involved in Seattle’s failed response to the housing affordability and homeless crisis.

After being introduced, one of the members Ebo Barton described himself as having “lived experience with being chronically homeless as well as professional experience working in permanent supportive housing along with supporting the gender diverse community of Seattle.”

Katie Labret, a self-described “trans woman who lives in Seattle” said, “I have experience with working with youth, young adults, like, you know, the younger generation of us. I also have lived experience with being homeless as well and navigating the systems.”

Devon Forschmiedt said he was “…appointed by the Seattle Renters Coalition” and was “a lifelong renter or a renter for my whole adult life.” The “member of the party for Socialism and Liberation and the Answer Coalition added, “Professionally I am a Head Start teacher, so I work with low-income and largely immigrant families. I have also had a lot of experience living in homes with, uh, unsafe conditions and poor maintenance and have that piece of lived experience.”

Seven of the board members were appointed by the activist group the Seattle Renters’ Commission, one board member was appointed by the Martin Luther King, Jr. County Labor Council, while another was appointed by El Centro De La Raza.

One board member was appointed by the Green New Deal Oversight Board, another was appointed by the mayor and two were appointed by the Seattle City Council.

It was recently revealed in a new report that the city of Seattle has spent nearly $1 billion on homelessness over the last decade but the number of those living on the streets continues to increase. Morales and other councilmembers have refused to admit that the ongoing homeless crisis is a drug crisis and have even refused to criminalize possession.

Earlier this month, Seattle Democratic Mayor Bruce Harrell unveiled his fentanyl and downtown activation plan to use gift cards and pickleball to combat the city's massive drug crisis. 

This will not be the city’s first foray into trusting the formerly homeless with taxpayer funds. A formerly homeless meth addict was appointed in 2021 by Seattle Public Schools to remove a dangerous homeless encampment at Broadview-Thomson K-8 was accused of using meth with the campers and using their housing vouchers as leverage to get them to comply with his demands.

Mike Mathias, a formerly homeless meth addict who ran the self-created Anything Helps non-profit, stepped down from his role amid "…allegations of mistreatment towards people who had been living at the encampment."

Mathias was accused of using funds from the non-profit to purchase meth for personal use. Documents obtained by The Post Millennial cited witnesses who claimed Mathias spent "large cash amounts" to purchase drugs for campers and himself. Additionally, "Despite multiple requests to produce receipts, Mr. Mathias cannot account for all Anything Helps funds. And that funds were unaccounted for."

The documents also stated that Mathias was "…pressuring women at the camp to 'hit' or 'slam' him with meth," and allege that he harassed the women to change their stories, "…disabling Anything Helps team email and application access, 'firing' unpaid staff after they came forward with the allegations, verbal abuse of and threats toward staff, and having staff banned from all sites."

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