Back the Regional Homelessness Authority
Despite all the agencies, resources and commitments geared toward eradicating homelessness in King County, it often appears that no tangible, region-wide progress is being made. An encampment is removed from downtown while another shows up en masse in South Lake Union. For every temporary housing unit built, hundreds more are needed. It appears there is no centralized approach that unites all of King County in one united front to solve the problem.
But that’s about to change.
The King County Regional Homeless Authority was formed in December 2019 to place all efforts to eradicate homelessness under one umbrella. KCRHA will coalesce policy, funding, resources and services with an equity and social justice lens. Most importantly, KCRHA’s work will be guided by the voices of those who experience homelessness, ensuring that solutions are driven by compassion, humility, racial justice, and common sense.
Have not heard of KCRHA? It is not surprising: the COVID pandemic slowed some of its momentum. But the group has continued its behind-the-scenes work, fielding responses from those who experience homelessness who said previous approaches, albeit well-intended, were too fragmented, bureaucratic, and disconnected.
KCRHA also put together its staff, led by Chief Executive Officer Marc Dones, an African American social justice activist and policy strategist with more than 10 years of experience in crafting equitable systems to support marginalized populations. According to PubliCola, Dones helped shape the outlines for KCRHA while serving as a county consultant. Since their appointment in March 2021, KCRHA has engaged community members (and public officials) across the region while tailoring a plan that addresses homelessness by sub-regions, not a county-wide, one-size-fits all approach.
Among KCRHA’s functions:
- It will coordinate all publicly funded outreach, diversion, shelter, rapid re-housing, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing services and most of the region’s prevention efforts for Seattle, King County and other cities who opt to join its efforts.
- It will provide consolidated, aligned services for individuals, youth, and families in King County who are experiencing homelessness or who are at imminent risk of experiencing homelessness.
- It will coordinate existing services for people experiencing homelessness and design, fund and operate other homelessness and social services using equity and social justice principles.
KCRHA will also create an Ombuds Office to service as a point of contact for the public and establish clear metrics and milestones to ensure success, accountability, and transparency. Already, it has an 11-member Governing Committee that includes Seattle’s mayor, King County’s executive and a member representing those with lived experiences of homelessness.
Funding for KCRHA has come from sources such as the City of Seattle ($73 million in services, $2 million in start-up support) and King County ($55 million in service and administrative work). Additional funding may be available from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
In the coming months, KCRHA will work to begin playing a more visible role in solving the county’s homeless crisis. As an organization working toward a racially just community where people have homes, students graduate and families are financially stable, United Way of King County believes that now is the time to get behind KCRHA’s efforts. A permanent, centralized agency backed by local and county government and guided by voices of those on the ground is the region’s best opportunity to tackle a crisis whose eradication is long overdue.
Let us put them to work and work with them.