Metropolitan King County Vice Chair Reagan Dunn introduced a package of legislation that aims to address core needs of homeless populations within King County.
Metropolitan King County Vice Chair Reagan Dunn introduced a package of legislation that aims to address core needs of homeless populations within King County. Each piece of legislation in the package offers a new strategy that has been implemented in other regions struggling with homelessness and demonstrated promising results.
“There is a real need for our local elected officials to start strategically tackling some of the core issues that greatly contribute to homelessness,” Dunn said. “This legislation isn’t a cure-all, but I do believe it is a step toward the sound policy that our region desperately needs.”
If approved by the King County Council, these motions will launch three pilot programs in King County:
Proposal 1: Homeward Bound
The law would create a pilot program that offers bus tickets to homeless persons for the purpose of family reunification. According to King County’s 2019 Count Us In data, there is a substantial demand for a Homeward Bound program, with 9% of homeless persons indicating that family reunification services would enable them to obtain permanent housing. The same report states nearly half of the county’s homeless residents have lived in King County for less than four years.
Currently, King County only spends $37,000 across five programs on family reunification. This new Homeward Bound program would dedicate $1 million for the purpose of providing tickets home for homeless persons who want them.
Similar “Homeward Bound” programs across the country have resulted in success stories, including in cities such as Portland, San Francisco, New York City, Berkley, New Orleans, West Palm Beach, and Denver.
Proposal 2: Metro Outreach Teams
One of the most visible public places that homeless people find shelter in King County is on transit lines and at bus stops. This proposal would pilot multidisciplinary outreach teams to connect with homeless persons on King County Metro.
These teams — made up of nurses, substance abuse counselors, mental health professionals, the formerly homeless, and others — would link homeless persons with shelter and services, while ensuring that buses remain a welcoming and safe place for all.
Similar teams have been piloted in the City of Los Angeles, resulting in approximately 4,800 homeless people reaching services and over 80 homeless people obtaining permanent housing.
Proposal 3: Opioid-related Death Notification System
In an effort to tackle opioid addiction at its source, the law would create a pilot notification system that informs prescribing doctors when death of one of their patients is found to be related to an opioid overdose. According to King County’s 2019 Count Us In survey, approximately one-third of homeless persons report substance dependence.
This program mimics a similar notification implemented in San Diego and Los Angeles County that resulted in a nearly 10% reduction in opioid prescriptions.