We Are In and our partners are closely watching the 2023 city and county budget processes. As leaders in Seattle and King County continue to make final determinations about their budgets, We Are In and our partners have communicated to them our strong support for maintaining full funding of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA). Together with many of our partner organizations, we sent an open letter to members of the Seattle City Council and King County Council (copying Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and King County Executive Dow Constantine) urging them to renew their support for KCRHA. The full letter is included below.
Three years ago, the City of Seattle and King County took a courageous leap by forming the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) to end decades of fragmentation in the homeless response system. Unlike response systems in other regions, the KCRHA would forge a new approach that centers data and equity, that meaningfully includes people with personal experience of homelessness in its leadership, and that leaves decisions in the hands of experts. The recent announcement of KCRHA’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is proof that this innovative approach is working.
Together, the agencies have developed a Housing Command Center, which empowers the Partnership for Zero initiative through a centralized emergency operations management system streamlining the actions required to house people. Utilizing best practices learned from years of emergency response to disasters like floods, fires and other major displacements, this partnership demonstrates what is possible when we prioritize collaboration, coordination, and action — and treat an emergency like an emergency. While this pilot is initially focused in Downtown Seattle and the Chinatown-International District, we look forward to working with the KCRHA to apply relevant outcomes and lessons to additional areas of the county, further working together as a region.
Since its inception, KCRHA has held strong in the belief that King County deserves more than short-term, quick fixes to homelessness. KCRHA is dedicated to addressing root problems to find long-term solutions, while meeting present needs.
Less than two years since KCRHA first hired staff, we are thrilled by the measurable progress already taking place across the region.
Beyond the Housing Command Center, Seattle and King County have officially handed over their service provider contracts to KCRHA, and numerous initiatives have started, including a new methodology for counting the number of people experiencing homelessness. These programs and others have already resulted in positive outcomes like resolving large encampments in Lower Woodland Park and Ballard Commons, with more than 1,400 households finding shelter and housing. Working with Governor Jay Inslee and the State of Washington, the KCRHA has resolved four encampments on state owned right of ways, successfully moving more than 110 people inside. Other promising developments over the first 18 months of the KCRHA include successfully distributing 1000 Emergency Housing Vouchers (at twice the rate of the national average), and deep relationships built with cities through more than 40 public engagement sessions. Just recently, KCRHA conducted regional town halls outside Seattle focused on receiving input from North, South, and East King County.
The vision that the Seattle City Council and King County Council showed in 2019 by voting to create the KCRHA was prescient and bold. Systemic change does not happen overnight, and more work needs to be done, but the KCRHA is moving in the right direction with other local, state, and federal government partners.
The collaboration between KCRHA, City of Seattle, King County, the Lived Experience Coalition, and providers has produced these successes in a short amount of time – and we are eager for what the future holds. The countywide, regional approach will solve homelessness if we continue to stay the course.
We are encouraged by the budget proposals from Mayor Harrell and Executive Constantine that continue the funding for KCRHA. Together, we urge the city and county councils to renew your support for KCRHA – to continue its operations and for it to continue to be the administrator of homelessness funds and programs in our region. It is critical that efforts to address homelessness be truly coordinated. Returning to the previously fragmented system will only slow our progress.
On the city side, we urge the Mayor and City Council to work together to support nonprofit providers and find an equitable solution to the issue of provider pay increases, and we also urge collaboration with KCRHA to avoid any reduction in services or beds due to the loss of one-time federal funds.
Change is not easy, especially at this scale. We are in the middle of a major shift that will lead to better outcomes for our neighbors without a safe and stable place to live.
Thank you for your leadership on these important issues.