From the CEO: “It’s About Our Core Humanity”
Amid the many occasions that usually mark the month of June—including Juneteenth and Pride Month—a watershed moment occurred in our county’s fight against homelessness. The King County Regional Homelessness Authority’s Governing Committee unanimously approved its five-year plan to reduce the number of people in our area who live unhoused.
The approval comes as the crisis remains one of the most hotly debated topics in our region, and concerns about the authority’s effectiveness have overshadowed reports of its progress.
What’s important is that the five-year-plan process was thoughtful, inclusive and rooted in current lived experiences. It is appropriately aspirational, and it provides direction for all in the region who are associated with mitigating and responding to folks struggling with homelessness.
What remains in front of us is the challenge of coming together around the path, vision and plan of the Regional Homelessness Authority. We must make progress in reducing the number of people who are unhoused or need supportive services.
We need to align with courage and commitment as one region to meet and exceed the expectations contained in the five-year plan
United Way of King County staff sat on the coordinating board that helped design the Regional Homelessness Authority, and I as United Way CEO currently sit on the Authority’s Implementation Board. We have been on this path from the beginning. Now that the five-year plan has been approved, we must analyze what has worked well up to now, what is the priority for the work that remains and ensure that the Regional Homelessness Authority is structured and resourced to be successful.
The 100-page document outlining the plan says it is slated to run from 2023-2028 and adds that the Regional Homeless Authority has one goal: bringing unsheltered people inside in a way that meets their needs for safety, stability and healing—as quickly as possible to prevent death and further harm.
To make this possible, the Regional Homelessness Authority will act on three levels to move unhoused people indoors and prevent future homelessness:
● Ensure that service providers have resources to implement best practices and recruit and retain necessary staff.
● Ensure that service providers have the ability to coordinate response with better data capacity, that every sub-region has services and that all disproportionately impacted sub-populations are served.
● Provide multiple systems of coordinated care to promote supportive transitions and leverage every opportunity to prevent homelessness.
The Regional Homelessness Authority aims to unify and coordinate homelessness funding, policies and programs across the region to promote efficiency and help more people exit homelessness, according to the five-year plan.
Even as we continue to support the Regional Homelessness Authority and participate with others in using this moment to ensure that the organization is well led by a new CEO and that staff and partners are appropriately supported, we must not lose sight of the reason why the organization exists. We have too many people in our community experiencing homelessness, living in emergency shelters and coping with the trauma associated with housing instability.
When we think of how this month highlights the freedom of the formerly enslaved (Juneteenth), the liberation of the LGBTQ+ community (Pride Month), and the rights of both to be treated with dignity and respect in our society, we are also reminded that these communities continue to be disproportionately homeless or unstably housed in our region.
Even as we continue to support the Regional Homelessness Authority and participate with others in using this moment to ensure that the organization is well led by a new CEO and that staff and partners are appropriately supported, we must not lose sight of the reason why the organization exists.Gordon McHenry, Jr., United Way of King County president & CEO
What makes those two commemorations special? Like our work to reduce homelessness, they are about our core humanity, the right to feel as if you belong as much as anyone else.
That reality is what inspires me and United Way to do the work we do in community, and for me as a member of the Implementation Board of the Regional Homelessness Authority to renew my dedication to ensuring that it is successful.