Head Tax in Seattle, Mental Health and Homelessness

The city council in Seattle has just reversed its vote on the so-called Head Tax.


One of the byproducts of the city’s growth has been an increase in homelessness. Many of the homeless cannot find affordable housing.  The proposed tax was to make funds available to provide low cost, subsidized housing.

This is an important goal for the city, but it only addresses part of the problem. Many, if not most of the homeless population, have alcohol and/or drug addictions. Drugs or alcohol are ways to self-medicate emotional pain. Many of this population are self-medicating their depression, anxiety and untreated PTSD. What they need besides housing are mental health counseling and other medical help.

Now that they have reversed course and dropped the head tax the city council needs to find other ways to generate funds to help the homeless. When they do find those resources, they need to be directed toward safe, affordable housing and mental health services if we are to truly help this vulnerable population in Seattle.

Helping the homeless with their mental health is key to managing this crisis. When they get help it can lessen the painful cycle of addiction, shame, broken relationships and emotional turmoil that is part and parcel of this population. By providing psychological help there will be a greater likelihood of managing their emotions, especially anger, and find ways to take care better of themselves.

Other professionals need to be involved to involve the population in recovery programs to help break the cycle of addiction.  One of the benefits of sobriety is that it can aid in clear thinking and that combined with better emotional balance can help them create better lives.

A full year of clean living is a prerequisite to having these people benefit from mental health counseling. So, gaining sobriety and working with a mental health professional can be the right combination to create a long-term solution.

A case manager assigned to each person would create a center figure to coordinate all their services. They can track and follow up on how well their housing, medical and mental health services are being met.

It makes sense that the first order of business is to provide housing: A stable base for people who have had very little stability and constancy in their lives. There have been several different ways proposed on how to provide housing from subsidized housing to city provided tiny houses and new apartments with a percentage of low-income housing. As housing is provided access to food banks and food vouchers would complete those elemental needs.

By bringing together the focused attention and help these individuals need we will be relieving the strain on emergence services and the goodwill of those who encounter the homeless daily.

The Head Tax vote was reversed and that means the city council will need to find a way forward to providing the resources to help the homeless population. The cost will be high and by providing a well thought out approaches by coordinating housing, mental health, addiction and social needs we will, in time, find a resolution to this human crisis.