Following a series of recommendations to unify the region’s approach to homelessness, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and other regional leaders outlined their support for a new unified entity that would set policy and fund solutions to make homelessness rare, brief, and one time.
The Memorandum of Understanding signed in May 2018 between Executive Constantine and Mayor Durkan announced a series of steps to unify the region’s approach to homelessness, including their commitment to create a new independent entity with accountability and authority to strengthen coordination and improve outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.
Stakeholders from the public sector, philanthropy, business, non-profit service providers, advocates, and people with lived experience worked with consultants Future Laboratories and Corporation for Supportive Housing to develop recommendations which incorporated research on successful models for addressing homelessness from communities across the nation.
Executive Constantine and Mayor Durkan aligned on moving forward with a series of actions, including:
- Consolidating the City of Seattle and King County homelessness funding and policy-making under a new joint authority;
- Engaging in a comprehensive digital transformation to create better customer experiences and more usable data infrastructure;
- Redesigning intake processes to be connected, customer-centric, and accessible to and from all available services and supports in the community;
- Creating system-wide customer accountability; and
- Creating a defined public/private partnership utilizing a funder’s collaborative model in which partners come together to fund a specific project and track results.
The creation of a single entity charged with addressing homelessness regionally responds to the King County Auditor’s Office report released this year noting that “multiple experts found the governance structure of the homeless response system is too weak to drive change” and “programmatic decisions remain siloed in the city, county, and other funders.”
In addition, the One Table effort – which brought together government, business leaders, service providers, philanthropy, advocates and people with lived experience of homelessness – repeatedly expressed support for a new organization with expanded authority and dedicated revenues.
With at least half a dozen agencies holding primary or significant responsibility for preventing and ending homelessness in Seattle and King County, Executive Constantine and Mayor Durkan support a new entity that is unified, independent, and regional. Its primary authority and purview will include:
- Unifying prevention and emergency funding and services including shelter, outreach, and diversion;
- Coordinating permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, and rapid rehousing;
- Overseeing policy, contract management, performance management, and technical assistance;
- Continuum of Care funding and functions required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to receive federal funding;
- Clear metrics and milestones for measuring success and for accountability.
Creating a single entity alone will not solve the severe lack of affordable housing, lack of behavioral health resources, and other root causes that contribute to homelessness. A new entity provides the necessary pre-conditions for clear ownership and accountability of core functions and to ultimately improve outcomes. It is a critical first step to addressing the true scale of homelessness across our region.
In the coming months, Executive Constantine and Mayor Durkan will work towards a more detailed implementation timeline as well as move forward with the creation of an entity – there are several potential models, each with its own legal requirements and parameters. A new regional governance structure will be inclusive of the Continuum of Care, currently known as All Home, as required by our collective federal grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Key implementation actions in 2019 include:
- Continue to increase housing stock and pathways to housing while preparing the transition to a new, unified entity;
- Begin development of regional action plan with costs and measurable goals to reduce homelessness through both crisis and prevention efforts;
- Work with the All Home board to define its specific role and adopt an updated Continuum of Care governance charter for the new entity that meets HUD requirements;
- Engage community stakeholders, providers, employees, and clients to shape a unifying implementation plan and ensure mutual accountability;
- Begin co-locating key staff and integrating processes across organizations and jurisdictions;
- Work with Councils to adopt an interlocal agreement;
- Create and charter a new, unified entity;
- Develop a process to allocate City and County resources to new entity;
“The homelessness and housing affordability crisis is our most pressing regional challenge. We have brought extra resources and deployed new innovations to the fight, but we must go even further, and build a system that is equal to the tasks before us,” said Executive Constantine. “Our goal is to make sure every person has a safe and secure place to call home. It is our moral duty to cast aside the inertia of past practices and embrace a truly regional partnership that will have far more impact than ever before.”
“With a worsening crisis, our region needs one unified system that has the governance, authority, and resources to deliver to people experiencing homelessness," said Mayor Durkan, "Working as quickly as possible, the City of Seatle is committed to implementing a more coordinated, effective, regional response under a new entity, so we can continue to move neighbors who are experiencing homelessness off the streets and into permanent housing."
The homelessness and housing affordability crisis is our most pressing regional challenge. We have brought extra resources and deployed new innovations to the fight, but we must go even further, and build a system that is equal to the tasks before us. Our goal is to make sure every person has a safe and secure place to call home. It is our moral duty to cast aside the inertia of past practices and embrace a truly regional partnership that will have far more impact than ever before.
With a worsening crisis, our region needs one unified system that has the governance, authority, and resources to deliver to people experiencing homelessness. Working as quickly as possible, the City of Seattle is committed to implementing a more coordinated, effective, regional response under a new entity, so we can continue to move neighbors who are experiencing homelessness off the streets and into permanent housing.
While we have not had opportunity to vet this plan with our membership, we are committed to working collaboratively with King County, Seattle, and the business and philanthropic communities to address this regional homelessness crisis. We appreciate that the report recognizes that there are different needs in our communities, and we look forward to working with our partners to craft a governance structure that will give voice to our communities.
We should strive to ensure that every policy and every dollar spent to address homelessness is as effective as possible. Coordinating with the City of Seattle and other partners will allow us to make meaningful progress, especially among communities where we can better provide services.
Consistent with what I have heard from the general public, service providers, government leaders, private sector representatives, and many more, the response to homelessness in our region has been inadequately coordinated. If we intend to make homelessness rare, brief and one time, providing a unified system is essential to deploy resources into our community quickly and efficiently. We cannot and must not delay in implementing any opportunity to do better by the people experiencing homelessness in King County and to prevent homelessness from occurring in the first place.
In King County, we take on tough challenges and we help our neighbors. Today’s announcement honors that ethos and demonstrates that we’re willing and ready to take the steps necessary to help our homelessness neighbors come inside. There is still much to be done to solve this problem, but the unprecedented level of coordination by our government, businesses, foundations, advocates, service providers, and people with lived experience is a promising sign for what’s to come.
Across the country communities have proven that far from being intractable, homelessness is a problem that can be solved—even effectively ended—when the right tools, resources and practices are in place. This announcement signifies a necessary first step towards that end by the private, public and non-profit sectors, led by the expertise of people most impacted. In a region with so much economic prosperity and innovation, we can and must come together for meaningful solutions to this challenge of our time.
Today’s announcement represents a significant step towards more meaningfully incorporating customer voice at every level of our homeless response, with an eye on equity and the strategies that reduce disparities. Eliminating the silos that we currently operate within will maximize our impact towards making homelessness rare, brief, and one-time across King County.
We must fundamentally change the way we work together if we want to get people the help they need and into stable housing. Consolidation is a critical first step to improving our fragmented system to make it more effective.
Urgent action for those without a home today requires that we have a solid foundation in place to get us there. Homelessness impacts us all, so solutions will require participation from us all. I am encouraged by the strong commitment from so many community leaders to walk together in lockstep towards a new approach for the regional crisis of homelessness.
Simply put, to end homelessness, we need more homes. This proposed regional governance structure gives us a way to achieve that. For years, I have argued that our regional homeless services must be better coordinated and streamlined. Working with Mayor Durkan and other regional leaders, 2019 will be our year of action. This new governance structure will invest effectively to move people who are homeless into housing, and prevent more individuals and families on the brink of being homeless from falling into it. We know this crisis won’t end without building thousands of more homes across our city, county, and region. As three major studies have shown, we need millions of dollars more to invest in affordable housing and upstream prevention measures, and we will continue to advocate for those revenues and investments with our state, federal and regional partners.
Our region’s homelessness crisis is a complex issue and we need to create a system that is dynamic, innovative and flexible to the unique needs of people experiencing homelessness. True and lasting results will come when we can work together - government, business, and philanthropy - to address racial disparities and make homelessness rare, brief, and one-time. I believe the partnership announced today is an important step toward that vision.
To truly make a difference in our region’s homelessness crisis, governments, businesses, nonprofits, and philanthropy must work together to reverse the growing trend of increasing homelessness and housing instability. Today’s announcement does just that with a clear commitment and shift by all sectors towards more effectively addressing the crisis of homelessness through a sustained comprehensive and regional approach.
Through The Home Shows, our community came together to fight homelessness. I’m excited to see the City and County work together now to build the foundation to solve this crisis.
For more information, contact:
Alex Fryer, Executive Office, 206-477-7966