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