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William Hobson recognized for decades of service on behalf of the homeless


Council honors Executive Director of the Downtown Emergency Services Center as he heads into retirement


For close to three decades, William (Bill) Hobson has been a voice for the region’s most vulnerable chronically homeless men and women. Today, the Metropolitan King County Council recognized Hobson as he retires as the Executive Director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC).

“Bill Hobson is the living embodiment of why compassion is such an important part of our humanity,” said Council Chair Larry Phillips. “His work on behalf of our region’s most vulnerable populations as well as his vision, hard work and many years of service to change their lives for the better are just part of the legacy he leaves our community. We are all the better for it.”

“Because of Bill’s tenacity and commitment to addressing the crisis of homelessness, more men, women and children in King County have a home to call their own,” said Council Vice Chair Joe McDermott. “I appreciate his tenacious leadership in improving coordination of services so that we can better support people in exiting homelessness.”

Hobson began working for DESC in 1984 and has been its director since 1988. DESC serves over 8,000 people a year with crisis services, overnight shelter, mental health care, drug and alcohol treatment, employment services, and operates over 1,000 units of permanent supportive housing.

“Bill Hobson’s work will have an everlasting impact on this city and the nation,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett. “His compassion for the most disenfranchised people in our society matched with his creativity and drive to create housing and services for that population have earned him well-deserved local and national attention. Bill’s shoes will be very hard to fill.”

“Bill walked an uncharted path to lead on new ways to provide for people with many needs. He pioneered the ‘housing first’ model and was part of the research to show how important housing is to stability,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. “He also led on ‘wrap-around services.’ His leadership has gained him many awards for his pioneering work and most of all, compassion.”

As the Director of DESC Hobson has become a tireless advocate for the homeless; providing them with the services needed to get them off the streets and into stable living environments. The result of that advocacy has been 10 new housing projects, over 1,000 new units of supportive housing, and services for formerly homeless individuals.

“The legacy of Bill Hobson’s commitment and advocacy for some of the county’s most vulnerable citizens are the thousands of people he has been able to help from the streets to stability,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn.

“It is a rare occasion that a single person leaves such a profound and lasting mark on our community,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski. “For more than 30 years, Dr. Hobson has selflessly devoted his career to the most vulnerable members of our society. His retirement brings an opportunity for us all to reflect on his work combating homelessness and the work that remains. I pledge to continue and build on the hard fought progress he’s achieved.”

Under Hobson’s leadership, DESC opened 1811 Eastlake, a facility that aids homeless individuals with chronic alcohol dependency—a program that has save lives and taxpayer funds since the homeless have access to services outside of hospital emergency rooms.

Hobson has been recognized both locally (The Municipal League of King County’s “Citizen of the Year”), and nationally (Best Practice Award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) for his work with the DESC.

“The solution to homelessness is not rocket science. It’s a home,” said Hobson. “We don’t have enough of them in King County, one of the richest communities in the nation. To see a dramatic decline in homelessness we have to have a dramatic uptick in funding for housing.”



WHEREAS, William Hobson has served as the Executive Director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) since 1988 and is retiring after 30 years of selfless service on behalf of the homeless; and

WHEREAS, DESC serves over 8,000 people a year with crisis services, overnight shelter, mental health care, drug and alcohol treatment, employment services, and operates over 1,000 units of permanent supportive housing; and

WHEREAS, under Bill’s leadership, DESC has received numerous awards, including the Best Practice award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Exemplary Program award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and two awards for Excellence in Affordable Housing from MetLife and Enterprise foundations; and

WHEREAS, DESC is a national pioneer of the Housing First model, operating 10 projects including 1811 Eastlake, which serves formerly homeless adults with chronic alcoholism, and which saves taxpayers approximately $4 million annually; and

WHEREAS, DESC’s innovative Vulnerability Assessment Tool has helped teach the nation how to manage more thoughtfully its short supply of affordable housing to maximize benefits to the most challenged and vulnerable homeless persons; and

WHEREAS, Bill has served as a member of the Interagency Council for the Committee to End Homelessness, the broad coalition of government, business, faith communities, nonprofits, and homeless advocates working together to implement the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness in King County; and

WHEREAS, Bill’s effective leadership and immeasurable compassion for homeless people in King County has inspired many during his career and, more than any other local homeless provider, DESC has helped the most vulnerable to gain access to the care and housing that they need;

NOW, THEREFORE, we, the Metropolitan King County Council, hereby recognize


for his sustained work and exceptional contribution, vision, and unwavering commitment to housing the homeless.

DATED this twenty-second day of June, 2015.


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