King County Council Chair Joe McDermott
Having a place to lay your head at night is the most basic of needs. Yet our region has seen a disturbing, unacceptable and rapid increase in our homeless population. Together, we can – and must – end this.
King County has dedicated millions of dollars to create thousands of affordable homes. We’ve also allocated more to prevent homelessness in the first place through the Best Starts for Kids Levy (http://www.kingcounty.gov/council/news/2016/May/05-09-YFHP.aspx).
But King County cannot solve this crisis alone. In fact, no one jurisdiction can do it alone. This is a regional problem, and we must have regional solutions. That’s why every jurisdiction must do what it can to address the crisis. I’m pleased King County is partnering with cities, Sound Transit, the State of Washington and the King County Housing Authority to do just that.
Our plan provides King County Housing Authority access to King County’s triple-A credit rating. This will make it possible for the Housing Authority to develop or preserve more than 2,000 affordable homes in locations close to well-performing schools and transit hubs. We are also considering a proposal to invest $49 million in transit-oriented development which will connect mixed-use housing to schools and job centers.
Together, in partnership, we can help to ensure that homelessness is rare, brief and one-time.
Taking action to support our neighbors experiencing homelessness
We all rely on a safe and stable place to call home as a foundation in life.
But for a growing number of people in King County, that foundation doesn’t exist.
That is why I joined my colleagues, community members, and Executive Dow Constantine to announce new, significant investments to expand shelter capacity and access, build more housing, and provide supportive services to help people regain and keep their housing. The Council is also working on a strategy for affordable housing that will meet our region’s needs.
This year’s King County One Night Count provided a stark snapshot of our regional crisis of homelessness. The Count shows a dramatic county-wide increase in the number of people without basic shelter, with 4,505 unsheltered people who have nowhere to go. This represents a 19% increase since last year, which itself was an increase of 21% from 2014.
I am committed to reversing this trend. While homelessness affects people across the board, we know that it hits some of our neighbors hardest – veterans, youth and young adults (especially young people of color and LGBTQ youth), survivors of domestic violence, and families. Homelessness is an experience of urban, suburban, and rural areas, and we must be able to help people no matter where they live.We are putting into action the recently adopted All Home strategic plan, with strategies focused on:
- Preventing homelessness by addressing the challenges that push people into homelessness,
- Connecting people to the services that help them to exit homelessness like rapid rehousing, and
- Building an engaged community to sustain our successes.
In the same way that homelessness has a variety of causes, we must approach it with a variety of solutions. By working together as a community and making smart decisions, we can move closer to our goal of making homelessness rare, brief, and one-time.
Working together to keep youth out of the justice system
I recently joined fellow Councilmembers, Executive Dow Constantine and Superior Court Presiding Judge Susan Craighead to announce a new effort to address racial disproportionality in King County’s juvenile justice system. We appointed the Juvenile Justice Equity Steering Committee, a group composed of community members, leaders, and representatives of schools, courts, faith, and law organizations to begin the work of identifying recommended solutions to address this challenge.
Over the last few years, King County has taken successful steps to reduce the number of young people involved in the juvenile justice system. While the overall number of involved youth has dropped dramatically, these efforts have not benefited all youth equally – African American, Hispanic and Native American youth are still disproportionately represented in this system. Meanwhile, representation among Asian American and Caucasian youth has gone down.
Bringing together the voices of community members and leaders, as well as schools, faith organizations, and law organizations, and courts is an important step forward that will help youth and young adults succeed. I invite you to learn about and get involved in these efforts. Please visit the King County Youth Justice webpage to find out more.
A transit option for those who depend on public transportation
King County's new $1.50 low income transit fare, Orca Lift, goes into effect on March 1. Orca lift gives residents a cheaper alternative to get to school, work, health appointments and key services they need.
This valuable program will help many residents in our region who are struggling to make ends meet. Some in King County are starting to experience economic recovery from the Great Recession, but many in our region still struggle with rising housing and transportation costs.
Read more of the OpEd I co-authored with Councilmembers Phillips and Gossett.
Budget Committee presents spending plan that prioritizes secure families and communities
Joined by the King County Sheriff and representatives of agencies that serve survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, the budget negotiation team comprised of four members of the Metropolitan King County Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee introduced their 2015-2016 Budget Proposal on November 12. The committee members unveiled a budget plan that will include funding for the investigation of sexual assault crimes.
The budget makes cuts to better align our revenues with our costs. But it also makes strategic investments to help our King County families and communities be secure. Thanks to key partnerships we propose keeping all ten county public health clinics open into the biennium. This is only a bridge. We will continue working with many partners – and our state Legislature – to find a more sustainable solution for Public Health.
Joined by Committee Vice Chair Kathy Lambert and committee members Jane Hague and Dave Upthegrove, McDermott introduced the budget plan that is the culmination of months of review and negotiations. The result is a $9 billion proposal that is King County’s first biennial (two-year) budget for all county agencies, including those contained within the County General Fund. Read more
Budget Chair Joe McDermott introduces the Council-proposed 2015-2016 Budget on Nov. 11. McDermott was joined by Sheriff John Urquhart; Councilmembers Dave Upthegrove, Jane Hague andKathy Lambert; Mary Ellen Stone, Executive Director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center; Merrill Cousin, Executive Director of King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence; and Barbara Langdon, Executive Director of Lifewire.