Solving the Homelessness Crisis Downtown Via Lived Experiences
The homelessness crisis in downtown Seattle could soon be on its way to being resolved, due in part to a coalition of people who know firsthand what it means to live on the streets.
The King County-based Lived Experience Coalition is a diverse, multigenerational community of people who have endured homelessness, victimization, emotional or physical violence, or mistreatment in the criminal justice system. Launched in 2018, the coalition was formed to ensure that it sits at tables where solutions to the crisis are being discussed.
United Way of King County has partnered with, funded and learned from the Coalition since its inception. Wayne L. Wilson, United Way community impact manager of homelessness and housing, attends weekly Coalition meetings. During a recent meeting, Wilson said, the Coalition indicated that their system advocates are working intensively in downtown Seattle to address street homelessness.
Those efforts will be realized in the new King County Housing Command Center, a central emergency operations system to coordinate and streamline the actions needed to house people. The Center is a key component of the Partnership for Zero, a public/private sector effort to reduce homelessness in specific areas of King County. The Housing Command Center comprises leadership of the Lived Experienced Coalition, the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, King County government and the City of Seattle. The center is expected to target downtown Seattle and other areas of King County for homelessness reduction.
During a recent press conference announcing the Housing Command Center, Lived Experience Coalition organizer Marvin Futrell III thanked the city and the Regional Housing Authority for giving those experiencing homelessness and their advocates room at the decision-making table. Already, the Housing Command Center has identified 31 potential housing units and developed partnerships with YWCA and CORT furniture rental to provide basic furniture, kitchen tools and housing hygiene kits for people moving into dwellings, the Regional Homelessness Authority said.
“They [the City of Seattle and the Regional Homelessness Authority] are truly the liberated gatekeepers,” Said Futrell, who also serves as co-director of the Housing Command Center, during the press conference. “They have opened up spaces and allowed the Lived Experience Coalition, the voices of the people closest to the problem or living the issue, to have real decision-making capability and to be part of the design of our response system.”
United Way has worked to support the Lived Experience Coalition in its work. Recently, United Way supported the Lived Experience Coalition in securing $1 million of federal Emergency Food and Shelter Program funds, leveraging additional funds to support the downtown efforts. United Way also granted the Coalition $330,000 for a pilot creating a new version of Streets to Home to connect people they are housing temporarily with employment.
“The significance of having a partnership with the Lived Experience Coalition is that, at this point in King County and Seattle’s history, all of us are being asked to lean in further and as far as we can to partner with those who are closer to the problem,” said Wilson. “The Lived Experience Coalition represents people who have vastly affected—and are still being affected—by homelessness. And 80 percent of the leadership is Black and Indigenous. So, the decision-making process is being made by them and others experiencing homelessness.”
The significance of having a partnership with the Lived Experience Coalition is that, at this point in King County and Seattle’s history, all of us are being asked to lean in further and as far as we can to partner with those who are closer to the problem.Wayne L. Wilson, United Way community impact manager of homelessness and housing
Wilson added United Way’s continued work with both the Lived Experienced Coalition’s partner with the Regional Homelessness Authority is key to solving the homelessness problem–downtown and county-wide.
Said Wilson: “That’s who we want to relate to, now and into the future, those two entities.”