A new path forward: moving towards a regional structure and approach to tackle homelessness

December 19, 2018

Summary

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.

Story

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 Officereport 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.”

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