A “notice to vacate” sign was placed in the middle of a homeless encampment in Federal Way by FWPD officers before the encampment was cleaned in January 2019. Sound Publishing file photo

A “notice to vacate” sign was placed in the middle of a homeless encampment in Federal Way by FWPD officers before the encampment was cleaned in January 2019. Sound Publishing file photo

King County, Seattle could create joint homelessness response agency

It would be a unified agency and the overarching authority on addressing homelessness in the county.

Fragmentation of responsibilities, response and funding have hindered the region’s response to homelessness, but officials say headway could be made if King County and Seattle agree to create the King County Regional Homelessness Authority.

The proposed partnership would allow the city and county to coordinate their responses and share the funding responsibilities. If approved, the partnership would include a steering committee with the county executive, Seattle mayor and a member from both the King County Council and Seattle City Council along with community stakeholders and representatives from other cities.

The authority would serve as a single point of contact for homelessness services and would take the lead on addressing the issue. It would also house all of the region’s data on the homelessness crisis. A regional action plan is being drawn up to coordinate the areas response.

As part of the ordinance, the county would agree to try and fund the authority to the tune of $55 million annually, with Seattle kicking in some $73 million. It could also accept funding from other public and private sources. If approved by the county council and Seattle City Council, the authority could be up and running by the end of 2020.

King County Council member Claudia Balducci said the current system for homelessness response was fragmented and hindered the ability of governments to respond to the homelessness crisis. Council member Rod Dembowski said, for example, it was a long process to set up the Kenmore shelter even though the building wasn’t being used by other public agencies.

Balducci and other council members expressed concerns that the council would not have greater oversight of the homelessness authority. Council member Dave Upthegrove said he worried voters could be cut out if the county council couldn’t directly affect the homelessness authority, and if the authority was comprised of non-elected members.

“From a democratic process, this is something I would have concerns about,” he said.

Balducci said she had similar concerns. She said the authority should have clear mission goals and outcomes to ensure accountability. She also floated the idea of requiring county council members who sit on the board to only vote in line with the council’s official position.

“We need to show that, what we’re going to do, and that it’s working,” she said.

While the county would not have direct oversight, it would have the ability to negotiate terms of contracts and the ability to allocate budget funds with provisions.

During the discussions, there was also much talk of having representatives on the governing board who have firsthand experience with homelessness. Three representatives on the 11-person board would be those with “lived experiences.”

“This is a big and complex county. It has different sub-regions and each of those sub-regions has different needs depending on the community we’re working with,” said Ann Oliva, with the Corporation for Supportive Housing, during a Nov. 19 county Health, Housing and Human Services committee meeting.

The King County Regional Homelessness Authority stems from a prior agreement between King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus. The agreement formed One Table with a mission to assess the current response to homelessness, find root causes, and work to increase community and government programs.

The effort found five main causes of homelessness in the region, including a lack of affordable housing, inadequate access to behavioral health treatment, negative impacts for youth in child-welfare systems, past criminal convictions hindering housing and job prospects, and education and employment gaps that make housing out of reach.

In spring 2018, the King County Auditor’s Office released a report saying separate funding and contracting processes burden homelessness housing providers and slow down programs.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

More in News

Wear your mask, keep your distance | Public Health Insider

A King County survey shows that more people are wearing masks, but less are social distancing

Black Diamond inches closer to 169/Roberts Drive roundabout project

The City Council recently passed its 2021-2026 Transportation Improvement Program plan.

Nurse Sylvia Keller, pictured with Gov. Jay Inslee, is on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle in Yakima County. Courtesy photo
Governor doubles down on mask rules

Inslee: Starting July 7, businesses do not serve those who do not wear a mask

State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Politicians get pay raises, state workers get furloughs

A citizens panel approved the hikes in 2019. Unable to rescind them, lawmakers look to donate their extra earnings.

EHS roundabout on Warner and Semanski to be built summer of 2021

The city council recently approved its latest six-year Transportation Improvement Program plan.

Human remains in West Seattle identified

Bags of body parts were found in a suitcase along a West Seattle beach on June 19.

Summer vehicle travel projected to decrease this year

Traffic this summer will likely be lighter across Washington state than previous… Continue reading

Sound Transit gets $100 million federal grant for Federal Way light rail extension

Portion of $790 million payment toward $3.1 billion project

Enumclaw library materials available with Curbside to Go

You can make an appointment on the myLIBRO mobile app or just walk up to the table they have out front.

Most Read