The proposed Regional Homelessness Authority fixes our current system’s well-documented fragmentation and makes the system more accountable to the public at large and to people experiencing homelessness.
- Fully Unified Responsibility, Authority, Funding and Performance Measurement. For the first time, King County and Seattle will unify within one entity the responsibility, authority, funding and performance measurement elements of the region’s publicly-funded homelessness response system. A unified regional authority will consolidate funding and adopt common performance measures to move services toward a shared vision, improving our ability to measure effectiveness and inform funding decisions and priorities. This goes further than previous efforts to align priorities and resources, specifically responding to consistent expert analysis that the region should consolidate homelessness strategy, resource allocation, and performance measurement into a single system.
- Customer-Centered Approach. This proposal also centers the perspectives of people who have experienced or are experiencing homelessness. We are achieving greater success with enhanced shelters because that model focuses on the needs of the customer. This new authority will apply the lessons of effective practices like enhanced shelters and emphasize person-centered responses to homelessness, explicitly addressing disparities existing in communities that are disproportionately experiencing homelessness. The addition of a new Ombuds Office also gives customers a central place to seek service improvements.
The Authority’s scope of work will be the region’s homelessness response system. The following program types will move to the new Authority:
- Prevention from homelessness for persons at imminent risk of housing loss
- Outreach to persons experiencing homelessness
- Diversion from homelessness to housing
- Rapid Rehousing
- Services associated with Permanent Supportive Housing
- Strategic planning, system administration and performance measurement.
People with lived experience of homelessness, equity experts, and front-line service providers were key informants throughout the planning and design for the creation of a Regional Authority. This began with the 2018 audit of the current system, resulting in the December report by the National Innovation Service. More than 200 people with lived experience, front-line provider staff and equity leadership participated in workshops and focus groups in 2018, leading to the call for the creation of a consolidated regional authority. During the design phase, customers, equity experts, and front-line staff continued to serve as critical consultants, particularly in helping to co-create key aspects of the regional authority by participating in workshops explicitly around regional authority governance, values and priorities of the redesigned system, and the structure and role of the Ombuds program.
We also engaged elected officials and staff from multiple jurisdictions, countywide non-profit leaders, and philanthropy and business leaders from across the region. These partners have been vocal in calling for unification of homelessness efforts and an end to the fragmentation of our current efforts. Stronger partnerships and coordination of resources and efforts creates the best chance for success. Such partnerships were present in every stage of designing this consolidated, regional approach and will continue to be sought throughout implementation.
This is initially an agreement between Seattle and King County. How will other cities be engaged or impacted?
Reasons for homelessness, service gaps and strengths, and local priorities vary across King County. The success of the new Regional Homelessness Authority will require valuing differences in local context, needs, and priorities through effective sub-regional planning. That is why the Interlocal Agreement (ILA) requires the Authority to analyze and articulate local needs, priorities and solutions to address homelessness across the different areas of the County, inclusive of Seattle and north, east, south, and rural King County. We will continue working with other cities across the region to support them in joining the ILA to align priorities and funding to make the Authority stronger.
The teams of public servants at King County and the City of Seattle who provide oversight, contract monitoring, and direct services in the current homelessness system are dedicated to their work and to the vulnerable people they serve. Seattle and County leaders have sought their input throughout the design and planning phase, and they will continue to be actively engaged in the implementation phase. Seattle and County employees (including All Home) have different compensation structures, benefits, and labor representation. Upon adoption of the legislation by the Seattle City Council and King County Council, the executive branches will continue to engage employees and work through their respective structures to support employees during the transition to a newly unified structure centered on serving the clients who experience homelessness in the region.
Homelessness is a crisis in our community and it demands urgent, pragmatic and regional action. We have years of analysis and reports—from national experts to local auditors—showing that the current system’s fragmentation limits the ability to improve our response to the crisis. Last May, King County and Seattle began a 16-month process to develop a new proposal. Along the way, we engaged with staff and elected officials from multiple jurisdictions, service providers, people who have experienced or are experiencing homelessness, philanthropy, and community members. This is a common-sense step that we can take now to improve our community’s ability to reduce homelessness.
The Ordinance accompanying the Interlocal Agreement and Charter will be delivered today to the County and Seattle City Councils. They now begin their processes of deliberation. A variety of committee meetings will provide opportunity for community feedback to the two Councils. The goal is for the Councils to approve the final documents this fall, which then sets us onto the next phase – standing up the new Regional Authority. A first step in formalizing Regional Governance is to establish the Steering Committee, which will take on the task of seating the Governing Board of the Regional Authority. Once constituted, the Board will hire the Executive Director, who will build out the infrastructure of the Authority in 2020.