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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Bringing the region together to fight homelessness: Seattle and King County unveil new authority to unify response systems and services

Summary

King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today transmitted legislation to their respective councils creating the new King County Regional Homelessness Authority to oversee a unified response to homelessness.

Story

Crafted by Executive Constantine and Mayor Durkan, legislation now before the King County Council and Seattle City Council establishes the King County Regional Homelessness Authority to oversee policy, funding, and services for people experiencing homelessness countywide. The legislation includes a proposed Interlocal Agreement (ILA) and a Charter that authorizes the creation of the new Public Development Authority (PDA) to administer and oversee regional homelessness efforts. City_of_Seattle_logo

“The new regional authority represents a concerted effort to increase coordination and collaboration of our planning, resources and service delivery countywide to achieve a more efficient and effective response to the needs in our community,” said Executive Constantine. “We are determined to create a service system that seeks solutions to the disproportionality of homelessness among communities of color and listens to the voices of those with lived experience of homelessness as some of our most insightful consultants. Our vision is a homeless response system that is fair and just for all.”

“Today marks the start of a new era in the fight against homelessness for our entire region,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Over the last 22 months, we’ve seen more alignment in our region than ever before, and we’ve also seen the first decline in homelessness in Seattle and King County since 2012. We need to keep that progress going, and that’s why the new King County Regional Homelessness Authority is so important. The historic step we are taking today will help do more to prevent homelessness, to serve people experiencing homelessness, and to center race and social justice in everything we do. It will take all of us working together as we stand up this new entity and come together to truly unify our work to build a better future for our entire region.”

People with lived experience of homelessness played a key role in the development of the ILA and Charter, and the new governance structure ensures that they hold leadership roles moving forward. Another key focus is the issue of disproportionality of homelessness among communities of color and ensuring that the new authority improves and strengthens equity and social justice efforts throughout the service systems.

Services

The King County Regional Homelessness Authority will focus on unifying and coordinating the homeless response system for Seattle and King County. Following a thorough review of the programs and services provided by both the city and county, the scope of the Authority will include coordination of all outreach, diversion, shelter, rapid re-housing, transitional housing and permanent supportive housing services and most of the region’s prevention efforts.

The Authority will assume oversight of shelters currently contracted with the City of Seattle and King County. Capital housing efforts will not be included, nor will the City of Seattle’s Navigation Team.

The new Office of the Ombuds under the Authority will help people receiving housing services resolve issues with conditions and programming. As patterns emerge, the Ombuds will suggest changes to policies and contracts to improve the system.

Pending decisions of the All Home Continuum of Care (CoC) Board, the CoC functions will move to the Authority including “Coordinated Entry for All,” coordinated assessment and referral to housing placements, the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), and the responsibilities currently held by All Home.

The Authority will be a unifying force, developing and adopting a single plan with short, medium, and long term priorities for shelter, housing, and other services that will help accomplish the ultimate goal of reducing homelessness.

Throughout King County there are dozens of governments, philanthropies, nonprofits, and business entities working to address homelessness.  These efforts are often disconnected from one another, decreasing their impact and creating inefficiencies.  The Authority will be the single place where all stakeholders can come together and determine how best to contribute to success. 

Funding

King County will dedicate about $55 million in service and administrative funding (based on 2019 annualized program amounts) and $1.8 million to support start-up. The City of Seattle will dedicate approximately $73 million for services and administrative funding, and up to $2 million for start-up costs. Actual funding will be subject to appropriations through the normal budget process of the respective councils and through a pending decision of the All Home Coordinating Board.

Funding amounts from King County and Seattle include more than $42 million of federally awarded Continuum of Care funds.

Structure

The ILA and charter establish a joint agreement to create a new PDA and describes the role, scope, and purpose of the new regional authority:

  • Unified planning and coordination of funding and services for people experiencing homelessness countywide.
  • Oversight on policy, contract management, and performance management.
  • Continuum of Care functions, as required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to receive federal funding, formerly housed within “All Home.” (pending decisions of the All Home Continuum of Care Board)
  • Creation of a new governance structure to guide financial and strategic decision making, including roles and proposed composition of a Steering Committee, Governing Board and Advisory Committees.
  • Hiring of an Executive Director with authority to lead the Regional Authority.
  • Creation of a new Ombuds Office to serve as a single point of contact for customers.
  • Establishment of clear metrics and milestones for measuring success and for ensuring accountability and transparency.

Governance

The 11-member Governing Board will be comprised of experts who provide guidance, management, and oversight to the PDA. All are confirmed by the Steering Committee. Three members must have lived experience of homelessness. The King County Executive, King County Council, Seattle Mayor, and Seattle City Council each appoint two members. The Steering Committee’s two members with lived experience will jointly appoint three Governing Board members. The Governing Board hires, fires, and reviews the performance of the Executive Director.

The Steering Committee includes the King County Executive, a King County Councilmember, Seattle Mayor, a Seattle City Councilmember, up to two Sound Cities Association members, and two people with lived experience of homelessness. The Steering Committee confirms Governing Board appointees, removes Governing Board members for cause, and confirms or rejects annual budgets.

The King County Regional Homelessness Authority responds to the 2018 King County Auditor’s Office report that found that “the governance structure of the homeless response system is too weak to drive change.” Recent reports and collaborative efforts such as “One Table” and the “Regional Affordable Housing Task Force” have also pointed to the fractured nature of homeless services in King County and the need for unification of efforts.

Stakeholders from the public sector (King County and local cities, including Seattle), business, philanthropy, nonprofit service providers, advocates and people with lived experience worked with consultants National Innovation Service (NIS) to develop the design for the new authority. 

With the transmittal of the legislation, the work now shifts to the Seattle City Council and the King County Council for review and deliberation, with the goal of achieving agreement and final approval by mid-December.

Frequently Asked Questions

The proposed Regional Homelessness Authority fixes our current system’s well-documented fragmentation and makes the system more accountable to the public at large and to people experiencing homelessness. 

  • Fully Unified Responsibility, Authority, Funding and Performance Measurement. For the first time, King County and Seattle will unify within one entity the responsibility, authority, funding and performance measurement elements of the region’s publicly-funded homelessness response system. A unified regional authority will consolidate funding and adopt common performance measures to move services toward a shared vision, improving our ability to measure effectiveness and inform funding decisions and priorities. This goes further than previous efforts to align priorities and resources, specifically responding to consistent expert analysis that the region should consolidate homelessness strategy, resource allocation, and performance measurement into a single system.

     

  • Customer-Centered Approach. This proposal also centers the perspectives of people who have experienced or are experiencing homelessness. We are achieving greater success with enhanced shelters because that model focuses on the needs of the customer. This new authority will apply the lessons of effective practices like enhanced shelters and emphasize person-centered responses to homelessness, explicitly addressing disparities existing in communities that are disproportionately experiencing homelessness. The addition of a new Ombuds Office also gives customers a central place to seek service improvements.

The Authority’s scope of work will be the region’s homelessness response system. The following program types will move to the new Authority:

  • Prevention from homelessness for persons at imminent risk of housing loss
  • Outreach to persons experiencing homelessness
  • Diversion from homelessness to housing
  • Shelter
  • Rapid Rehousing
  • Services associated with Permanent Supportive Housing
  • Strategic planning, system administration and performance measurement.

People with lived experience of homelessness, equity experts, and front-line service providers were key informants throughout the planning and design for the creation of a Regional Authority. This began with the 2018 audit of the current system, resulting in the December report by the National Innovation Service. More than 200 people with lived experience, front-line provider staff and equity leadership participated in workshops and focus groups in 2018, leading to the call for the creation of a consolidated regional authority. During the design phase, customers, equity experts, and front-line staff continued to serve as critical consultants, particularly in helping to co-create key aspects of the regional authority by participating in workshops explicitly around regional authority governance, values and priorities of the redesigned system, and the structure and role of the Ombuds program. 

We also engaged elected officials and staff from multiple jurisdictions, countywide non-profit leaders, and philanthropy and business leaders from across the region. These partners have been vocal in calling for unification of homelessness efforts and an end to the fragmentation of our current efforts. Stronger partnerships and coordination of resources and efforts creates the best chance for success. Such partnerships were present in every stage of designing this consolidated, regional approach and will continue to be sought throughout implementation.

Reasons for homelessness, service gaps and strengths, and local priorities vary across King County. The success of the new Regional Homelessness Authority will require valuing differences in local context, needs, and priorities through effective sub-regional planning. That is why the Interlocal Agreement (ILA) requires the Authority to analyze and articulate local needs, priorities and solutions to address homelessness across the different areas of the County, inclusive of Seattle and north, east, south, and rural King County. We will continue working with other cities across the region to support them in joining the ILA to align priorities and funding to make the Authority stronger.

The teams of public servants at King County and the City of Seattle who provide oversight, contract monitoring, and direct services in the current homelessness system are dedicated to their work and to the vulnerable people they serve. Seattle and County leaders have sought their input throughout the design and planning phase, and they will continue to be actively engaged in the implementation phase. Seattle and County employees (including All Home) have different compensation structures, benefits, and labor representation. Upon adoption of the legislation by the Seattle City Council and King County Council, the executive branches will continue to engage employees and work through their respective structures to support employees during the transition to a newly unified structure centered on serving the clients who experience homelessness in the region.

Homelessness is a crisis in our community and it demands urgent, pragmatic and regional action. We have years of analysis and reports—from national experts to local auditors—showing that the current system’s fragmentation limits the ability to improve our response to the crisis. Last May, King County and Seattle began a 16-month process to develop a new proposal. Along the way, we engaged with staff and elected officials from multiple jurisdictions, service providers, people who have experienced or are experiencing homelessness, philanthropy, and community members. This is a common-sense step that we can take now to improve our community’s ability to reduce homelessness.

The Ordinance accompanying the Interlocal Agreement and Charter will be delivered today to the County and Seattle City Councils. They now begin their processes of deliberation. A variety of committee meetings will provide opportunity for community feedback to the two Councils. The goal is for the Councils to approve the final documents this fall, which then sets us onto the next phase – standing up the new Regional Authority. A first step in formalizing Regional Governance is to establish the Steering Committee, which will take on the task of seating the Governing Board of the Regional Authority. Once constituted, the Board will hire the Executive Director, who will build out the infrastructure of the Authority in 2020.

Relevant links


Quotes

The new regional authority represents a concerted effort to increase coordination and collaboration of our planning, resources and service delivery countywide to achieve a more efficient and effective response to the needs in our community. We are determined to create a service system that seeks solutions to the disproportionality of homelessness among communities of color and listens to the voices of those with lived experience of homelessness as some of our most insightful consultants. Our vision is a homeless response system that is fair and just for all.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

Today marks the start of a new era in the fight against homelessness for our entire region. Over the last 22 months, we’ve seen more alignment in our region than ever before, and we’ve also seen the first decline in homelessness in Seattle and King County since 2012. We need to keep that progress going, and that’s why the new King County Regional Homelessness Authority is so important. The historic step we are taking today will help do more to prevent homelessness, to serve people experiencing homelessness, and to center race and social justice in everything we do. It will take all of us working together as we stand up this new entity and come together to truly unify our work to build a better future for our entire region.

Jenny A. Durkan, Mayor of Seattle

I believe every city in King County shares the goal of a coordinated, seamless system that successfully transitions every individual and family experiencing homelessness into secure housing. I strongly support the Authority’s prioritization is sub-regional planning - allowing community-driven plans and responses that will recognize that Auburn is not Seattle, Seattle is not Kirkland, and so on. I look forward to continuing conversations with Executive Constantine, Mayor Durkan, and the councils as this legislation is finalized.

Nancy Backus, Mayor of Auburn

The Charter and ILA for the new Regional Authority is important progress to having a unified homeless emergency response system that is aligned with and responsive to the needs of those struggling with homeless and housing instability. The new system is designed to implement strategies and services on a regional basis that have been validated by both those most impacted by our homeless and housing crisis. The Charter, ILA and Regional Authority is aligned with our federally funded Continuum of Care that enables local human service providers and governments to invest over $42M each year in homeless prevention and response funds. This important work and milestone should be supported as we work to have a regional homeless emergency response system that is aligned, effective and rooted in racial equity.

Gordon McHenry, Jr., president at Solid Ground and co-chair, Continuum of Care Coordinating Board

There are solutions to homelessness, and everyone needs to be working together on a single, comprehensive plan. The creation of the new entity is an important step in that process, by aligning policies and current resources of King County and Seattle more effectively, and providing a framework for the additional strategies and resources that will be needed to eliminate the suffering we see on the streets today.

Daniel Malone, Executive Director of DESC

I believe this is a positive first step in ensuring that our homelessness response system is coordinated, equity-driven, and informed by the people most directly impacted. As we move forward, it imperative that we avoid recreating the wheel or reinforcing previous inefficiencies. Our homelessness response system must reject a one-size-fits- all model, incorporate providers’ input, and be responsive to the unique developmental needs of those served, including those of youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. By doing so, we can collectively make a dent in ending the crisis of homelessness in our community.

Melinda Giovengo, CEO of YouthCare

The new regional authority to house and serve our unsheltered community supports the urgent action that the homelessness crisis demands. Given this is only the one step in the needed regional response, I look forward to diving into the details and working with my colleagues, our city employees, contractors and the vulnerable populations we serve to adopt the regional governance structure as quickly as possible – to eliminate duplication, better coordinate service, and more holistically care for our residents.

Teresa Mosqueda, Seattle City Council

Being a part of the Lived Experience Coalition has allowed me to turn my experience of homelessness as a disabled, senior woman into positive change for the community. Our collective voice and power as people experiencing homelessness has been central to this process and I am hopeful that together, we can continue to empower more people like us in the solutions for our region.

Abigail, Lived Experience Coalition Member

The Lived Experience Coalition is a diverse group of people who lift each other up, beyond oppressive structures and the trauma of homelessness, to advance racial and social justice. We have worked alongside our partners in government, business, non-profits and philanthropy to do just that through the co-design of stewardship and governance for homeless resources. We are hopeful that our efforts will have urgent and sustainable impact for our community experiencing homelessness in King County.

Julius, Lived Experience Coalition Member

The disproportionality of homelessness among communities of color is well-documented. To be effective, our homelessness response system must not just acknowledge racial and cultural needs, but ensure a truly person-centered approach to service design, delivery and governance. The plan for a new King County Regional Homelessness Authority brings us s step closer to that goal.

Colleen Echohawk, Executive Director of Chief Seattle Club, member of All Home Coordinating Board

There is no disagreement that we as a region must do better getting people and families the services they need to achieve stable housing," said Kohl-Welles. "The mayor and the executive have provided us today with a strong blueprint. But there is still a lot more to do. I look forward to working with my colleagues and having a constructive dialogue with the public to ensure the final product is a solid alliance across governments and agencies that can finally begin to reverse the effects of this bleak chapter in our region’s history.

Jeanne Kohl-Welles, King County Council

For more information, contact:

Alex Fryer, Executive Office, 206-477-7966


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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