Now More Than Ever, Continue Supporting Regional Homelessness Authority

By Gordon McHenry, Jr., on September 29, 2022 | In Fighting Homelessness, News

We’ve seen how it works the other way—when various agencies, organizations, lawmakers and stakeholders work to solve King County’s homelessness problem without a united front. A crisis that’s been years in the making shows progress in some areas but deficiencies in others while frustrations mount and a clear end to the problem seems nonexistent.

That is the reason this area came together to design and authorize the creation of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority. In its 2019 formation, we agreed to place all efforts to eradicate homelessness under one umbrella, coalescing policy, funding, resources and services with an equity and social justice lens.

Now, less than three years into the formation of the Authority—and just one year of having its director Marc Dones at the helm—frustrations persist as signs of progress aren’t as visible as many would expect. That frustration has undermined the hope and optimism generated by the creation of the Authority, and how we pulled together to make it possible.

At United Way of King County, we have been unwavering in our support of the Authority and we will continue to be. We appreciate the progress the Authority has made, from a more accurate account of those experiencing homelessness to a relationship-based approach to getting people housed out of an encampment at Interstate 5 and Dearborn—where, after a six-week effort, 75 people previously living unsheltered were transferred to shelters, lodging, treatment facilities and housing.

And it wasn’t the Authority alone. According to its website, the collaborative effort comprises people with lived experiences of homelessness, the state Department of Commerce, the Washington State Patrol, the Washington State Department of Transportation, the City of Seattle, and outreach providers such as JustCARE and REACH. The very intentionality to work together that led to the formation of the Authority proved most effective in providing people in an encampment with resources based on their individual needs. It is a shining example of why we continue to support the Authority.

Yet, we also remain in support of the Authority because we’ve been invested in its success from day one. Buoyed by the hopes of ensuring a united front against King County’s homelessness crisis, we sat on the coordinating board that helped designed the Authority. I, as United Way CEO, currently sit on the Authority’s implementation board. And United Way also funds the Authority while supporting its work. We therefore not only support the Authority but we hold the Authority accountable to upholding its mission of eradicating homelessness.

We also remain in support of the Authority because we understand what it means to work in the same arena. We know how important the work is in terms of housing stability as an aspect of preventing homelessness. We are honored to be a partner of the Authority and for us to continue together our focus on housing stability, eviction prevention and rental assistance.

We also remain in support of the Authority because we understand what it means to work in the same arena. We know how important the work is in terms of housing stability as an aspect of preventing homelessness.

United Way of King County CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr.

Certainly, we understand the frustrations. Yet we applaud those who take that frustration and apply it to creating relationships and delivering services in support of our neighbors. We are encouraging folks to join the work of not only the Authority but all the individuals, nonprofits and community-based organizations who are working to solve this problem.

I echo the sentiments of Rachel Smith, president and CEO, Seattle Metro Chamber and United Way board member, who spoke about the importance of public, private and nonprofit sector collaboration during the Chamber’s recent annual meeting. “We need to be thoughtful and intentional and work together in earnest,” Rachel said. “In fact, the most important time for business, government and community to work in partnership is in the face of uncertainty. That is when we should anchor in our values, show our cards, bring our ideas, be ready to listen and compromise, and show up as our most collaborative selves.”

In December, the Authority is expected to unveil a five-year plan for ending homelessness. This will be an important moment for all of us to understand and to find ways to engage in this work; where success in ending homelessness in King County is dependent upon all of us. It’s not just about the Homelessness Authority. It’s about the communities we are leading.

We are making progress, and we will continue to do so if we stay this course. And we must never lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with human beings who are our neighbors and who are enduring a lot of traumas. We need not look for simple solutions to intersecting challenges that have been with this community for decades.


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