The Regional Homelessness Authority was created by agreement in December 2019. Pictured: King County Executive Dow Constantine shakes hands with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. Courtesy photo

The Regional Homelessness Authority was created by agreement in December 2019. Pictured: King County Executive Dow Constantine shakes hands with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. Courtesy photo

Regional homelessness authority takes first step amid COVID-19

The authority held its first meeting on Thursday.

The first meeting of a new homelessness authority designed to bridge service gaps between various agencies in King County was largely spent on formalities, but some latent tensions began to appear.

The Regional Homelessness Authority was created by agreement last December. It’s designed to consolidate homelessness services between the county, Seattle and cities in the region. On May 21, the guiding committee — which will help create the rest of the agency — met for the first time.

While much of the meeting was a formal meet-and-greet and schedule setting affair, there was a disagreement between members on who should be elected co-chair. King County Councilmember Joe McDermott nominated King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan and Renton City Councilmember Ed Prince.

Three members of the committee have lived experience with homelessness, including Jonathan Hemphill, who stated at least one of the co-chairs should have first-hand knowledge of homelessness. He was supported by the other two members with lived experience, as well as Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez.

“[It] would send a very strong signal that we are indeed serious about taking a different approach,” Gonzalez said.

During debates on whether Seattle should approve the agency agreement in December, Gonzalez was worried about politics taking hold in the process. At Thursday’s meeting, she expressed concerns about all the chairs being elected officials.

The 12-person guiding committee seats are split evenly between representatives from Seattle, the county, other cities in the region and those with lived experience.

The selection of co-chairs was tabled until the June meeting. Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus said if all of the other three groups had chairs, then those representing Sound Cities Association cities should also have a chair position.

The committee will be holding meetings every third Thursday of the month. They will be working to create an implementation board to help establish the agency. The two groups will then search for and select a CEO by October.

Once it’s stablished, the regional homelessness authority will consolidate emergency response resources, budgets, planning and staff into a single entity. It is an intergovernmental agency instead of a public authority.

During the agreement’s drafting, suburban cities said they didn’t have enough representation. Homelessness aid organizations said the same of those with lived experience.

However, fragmentation in the response to homelessness between different government agencies has created a barrier to addressing the problem effectively. If the agency is successful, it will be able to let the various groups hash out their differences and find solutions to the persistent problem of people ending up on the streets.

It’s being funded by $73 million annually from Seattle, and another $55 million from King County.


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

Sound Publishing offering matching advertisement grants

Your local paper is offering $200,000 in matching grants so local businesses can stretch their advertising budgets.

The YMCA of Greater Seattle opened its King County branches to provide child care centers dedicated to serving the families of essential workers. Courtesy photo
Child care shortage could follow COVID-19 pandemic

Around 25 percent of child care facilities have closed across the state.

Closures on I-5 in SeaTac for Federal Way Link construction

Along southbound lanes over three weeks

King County assessor wants Legislature to fix laws to help small businesses

Changes needed because of COVID-19 impact on commercial properties

Local residents — including police chief — targeted by unemployment fraud schemes

A total of 60 cases of fraud targeting city officials have been reported.

King County could be in Phase 2 in two weeks

The county is also hoping the state lets them reopen several businesses by Friday.

Answering questions about protests and COVID-19 | Public Health Insider

If you want to protest, try to stay 6 feet away from other people, carry and use hand sanitizer, and wear a mask.

DOH to Enumclaw: We are ‘committed’ to a county-by-county approach

COVID-19 activity in Enumclaw is low, but the state wants whole counties to move forward through Gov. Inslee’s reopening plan.

Most Read