What is Partnership for Zero?

Starting with the premise that housing is a basic human need and every human should have a safe place to live, Partnership for Zero is an extraordinary collaboration to dramatically reduce unsheltered homelessness in targeted areas of King County. The initial demonstration projects will launch in Downtown Seattle and a set of regional communities, made possible by a public-private partnership from King County’s business and philanthropic communities.

Led by the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA), Partnership for Zero is funded with significant private investment through We Are In’s business and philanthropic partners — including: Ballmer Group, who has contributed a lead gift, as well as Alaska Airlines, Amazon, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Campion Foundation, Costco, Expedia Group, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, JP Morgan Chase Pacific Northwest, Kaiser Permanente Washington, Madrona Venture Group, Microsoft Philanthropies, Nordstrom, PATH, Puget Sound Energy, Raikes Foundation, REI, Russell Investments, Schultz Family Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Starbucks, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Symetra, T-Mobile, Weyerhaeuser, and Zillow Group. For quotes from We Are In’s partners about Partnership for Zero see HERE.

Partnership for Zero is also made possible through support from the City of Seattle and King County. We are grateful to have strong partners in Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Our Goals

The goals of Partnership for Zero are to…

  • Treat King County’s homelessness emergency like an emergency
  • Live our values by helping people move from homeless to housed
  • Develop a model that can be quickly and effectively scaled, with additional resources, to other communities across King County.

Our Approach

Partnership for Zero will…

  • Unify and coordinate the resources of business and private philanthropy together with the City of Seattle, King County, and the King County Regional Homeless Authority
  • Create the necessary infrastructure to effectively respond to the needs of people living unsheltered
  • Employ trained incident responders and system advocates to provide individualized, trusted support for people experiencing homelessness
  • Build a By-Name list with detailed information about what each individual needs to move to stability
  • Facilitate the movement of people into shelter or housing that matches their needs
  • Maintain the infrastructure necessary to immediately respond to new individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness in target areas.

The Partnership for Zero model will be deployed in five phases:

Phase 1

Development of a Unified Command Center

In the first phase of Partnership for Zero, a Unified Command Center will be created to coordinate and streamline the response to unsheltered homelessness in Downtown Seattle. The Unified Command Center includes representatives of the Lived Experience Coalition, the City of Seattle, King County, and the Regional Homeless Authority, who are empowered to:

  • Direct resources and access to housing and shelter options
  • Establish daily and weekly objectives and develop plans and tactics for meeting those objectives
  • Communicate clearly and consistently to the public about progress

Phase 2

Development of By-Name List

A “By-Name List” includes granular, real-time information about who is experiencing unsheltered homelessness and what they need to move to stability. This tool relies on relationships built by system advocates and enables effective case planning and service matching.

Phase 3

Case Planning and Resource Matching

An assessment of what services and resources are needed to successfully support people experiencing unsheltered homelessness and put them on the path to stable, permanent housing. The gaps identified between available resources and population needs will inform the expansion of infrastructure and capacity.

With funding from We Are In’s business and private partners, KCRHA will hire and manage sufficient staff to do the hard work of caring for people. The workforce will include 15 trained incident responders and up to 30 system advocates who can provide longitudinal support to get people into stable outcomes. System advocates have lived experience of homelessness and an understanding of how the system works and how to access resources, enabling them to establish the trust needed to help people move from homeless to housed.

Phase 4

Draw Down

The majority of shelter and housing placements will occur during this phase, with outreach workers and system advocates facilitating the movement of people into shelter or housing that matches their needs.

Phase 5

Hold Steady

Once Phase 4 is complete, KCRHA will maintain the infrastructure necessary to immediately respond to new individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness in target areas.

In the Downtown core, we expect to reach phase five in what could be as fast as 12 months, though we expect some variance in timeline due to command center development and project staffing, client needs, and the availability of appropriate resources. Partners expect that there will be learning and adjustment over the course of the project and will operate with full transparency to keep the community updated. We are committing to doing whatever is necessary to launch this program successfully –– we want to do this once, do it well, and make sure it’s sustainable.

Staying Updated On Partnership For Zero

Joining We Are In is the best way to stay engaged and informed about Partnership for Zero. Visit https://wearein.org/we-are-in-join-us to sign up for our email updates and follow us on social media at @WeAreInKingCo.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Partnership for Zero

Partnership for Zero is a united effort to focus and coordinate resources in a targeted geographic area to dramatically reduce unsheltered homelessness. The goal of Partnership for Zero is to build a future where homelessness is rare overall and brief when it occurs, by combining resources and investing in targeted infrastructure and capacity to put every person who is experiencing unsheltered homelessness on the path toward permanent housing.

Starting with the premise that housing is a basic human need that everyone should have access to, Partnership for Zero is an extraordinary collaboration across the City of Seattle, King County, and a broad group of businesses, philanthropies, service providers, and people with lived experience. Partnership for Zero will launch its initial demonstration project in Downtown Seattle and in a set of regional communities to be named soon, allowing partners to iterate and adjust the model before expanding across King County.

The Partnership for Zero approach was developed by KCRHA leadership in collaboration with the Lived Experience Coalition, the City, the County, and We Are In ––  a coalition of philanthropies, businesses, service providers, advocates, and both housed and unhoused King County residents –– and other community partners.

Ending homelessness is not an easy task; the problems we are trying to solve reached this level because of years of inattention and underfunding. It requires time and focus to do it right –– people’s lives depend on it –– and this partnership is designed to work in a different way than what has been done before.

Partnership for Zero strategically focuses resources on a defined geographic area, treating this emergency like an emergency in order to make visible progress. By focusing resources, Partnership for Zero avoids the trap of spreading resources so thinly that everybody gets something but nobody gets enough to make a difference. Partnership for Zero ensures coordinated resource deployment and adaptive adjustment using real time information.

There are several core tenets of the Partnership for Zero model that differentiate this approach from previous efforts to address homelessness in our region.

The initial phase of Partnership for Zero establishes a Unified Command Center, a key component of an emergency management framework, which will coordinate and streamline the response to unsheltered homelessness in Downtown Seattle. The Unified Command Center includes representatives from the Lived Experience Coalition, the City of Seattle, King County, and the King County Regional Homeless Authority, who are empowered with equal responsibility to:

  • Direct resources and access to housing and shelter options;
  • Establish daily and weekly objectives and develop plans and tactics for meeting those objectives; and
  • Communicate clearly and consistently to the public about progress.

An emergency management operation embraces the premise that, in order to successfully and efficiently address a crisis, there must be a coordinated and targeted activation of resources. The Unified Command Center will coordinate and streamline response and use of resources in target areas, allowing us to treat this emergency like an emergency. The Unified Command Center’s overall coordinator will be KCRHA’s Director of Special Projects, Heidi Wiersma.

The second phase of Partnership for Zero will focus on the development of a “By-Name List,” a comprehensive list of all the people experiencing homelessness in a designated area and their specific needs. A By-Name List is more than just a list of names –– it includes granular, real time information about who is experiencing unsheltered homelessness and what they need to move to stability. This tool relies on relationships built by outreach workers and enables effective case planning and service matching.

KCRHA’s By-Name data capacity is being developed with in-kind support from Microsoft. The tool is meant to replace duplicative, burdensome, and traumatizing intake sheets with secure records of clear, relevant, up-to-date information, similar to a medical history like a primary care “My Chart.”

A majority of the shelter and housing placements will take place during the third phase of Partnership for Zero with the help of system advocates. Peer outreach or navigation has proven effective and essential in getting folks on the path to permanent housing. System advocates provide individualized, trusted support to people experiencing homelessness, acting as an advocate and an ally to help people move from homeless to housed. System advocates have lived experience of homelessness and an understanding of how the system works and how to access resources. Navigating multiple social service systems can be challenging. It is not enough to have resources available –– we must actively work to ensure that folks are getting the resources they need.

With funding from We Are In’s business and private partners, KCRHA will hire and manage sufficient staff to do the hard work of caring for people. The workforce will include 15 trained incident responders and up to 30 system advocates who can provide longitudinal support to get people to stable outcomes.

Here is a hypothetical example of how system advocates works: A 52 year-old man is experiencing homelessness in Downtown Seattle. He’s diabetic, has a dog, is currently employed, and lives out of his car. Because he moves from location to location, he might be harder to find from week to week. Because he has a dog, he doesn’t want to go to a shelter that won’t allow him to keep his pet. Because he has diabetes, he should have access to regular medical care that can prevent more serious health problems. A peer navigator would get to know him by name, build a relationship to better understand his needs, and be able to reach him if he has to move his car. The peer navigator would understand that he has limited ability to meet or access services during the work day, and would also know that he needs a place that will let him keep his dog. When an appropriate housing opportunity arises, the peer navigator would be able to connect him with that opportunity immediately and would stay in touch after placement to act as a coach and ally who can support him in accessing services.

For each of Partnership for Zero’s geographic targets –– the first being Downtown Seattle –– the model will include five phases. In Downtown, we expect to reach phase five in what could be as fast as 12 months, though we expect some variance in timeline due to command center development and project staffing, client needs, and the availability of appropriate resources. We are not setting a strict timeline and instead committing to doing whatever is necessary to implement this program successfully –– we want to do this once, do it well, and make sure it’s sustainable. Partners expect that there will be learning and adjustment over the course of the project and will operate with full transparency to keep the community updated.

The Partnership for Zero model enables us to break down silos, consolidate our approach, and work together to provide shelter and housing for everyone in need. The City and County retain responsibility for housing, zoning and development, so KCRHA will work with them to assess what resources are needed to successfully place people experiencing unsheltered homelessness on the path to stable, permanent housing. We will identify the gaps between available resources and population needs and expand our infrastructure and capacity accordingly. We will then be able to provide folks experiencing homelessness with available shelter or permanent housing that matches their needs and then maintain the infrastructure necessary to quickly respond to new incidences of homelessness.

Yes. Outreach workers, incident responders and system advocates will be prepared to support people with complex behavioral health issues or co-occurring disorders. We anticipate the need for additional capacity in this space, including the addition of approximately 150 shelter beds with high-acuity services.

One of the key structural improvements piloted in Partnership for Zero is in the work of our systems advocates, who provide clear and consistent pathways to multiple social service providers, including health and behavioral health services, and support people experiencing homelessness on their path to permanent housing. 

Another key structural improvement is that Partnership for Zero is co-designed by people with lived experience of homelessness. The Washington State Lived Experience Coalition (LEC) worked closely with KCRHA and We Are In to develop this model. People with lived experience have decision-making power in the key operations of Partnership for Zero. Together, we are building homelessness response system that is co-designed by the people who are most impacted. 

The root causes of homelessness and housing instability – such as housing development and zoning practices, health care access, and workforce wages – are influenced by a number of systems. We will continue to advocate for improvements in those areas, and we encourage you to do the same.

Limited resources require strategic decisions about how to make the greatest impact in the areas of greatest need. Because Downtown Seattle currently holds the largest concentration of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness, focusing resources on Downtown will make a real difference in many people’s lives. As we implement and adjust the model in the downtown core, the lessons learned will also prepare us to expand the model to other parts of the region.

Homelessness affects all of our regional communities, but it shows up differently than it does in the downtown core. To ensure that the model can work across diverse sub-regions, Partnership for Zero will also launch in a set of sub-regional cities to be named soon.

Yes. There will be an additional community in King County, outside of Seattle, announced later this year.  KCRHA and its partners will work with the initial Partnership for Zero communities to adjust and improve the model, learning lessons so that we can bring it to other communities in King County.

The City of Seattle and other municipalities in King County have jurisdiction over when and how to remove encampments. Neither KCRHA as the operator of Partnership for Zero or We Are In has purview over those activities. We believe that the tailored outreach approach of Partnership for Zero, which connects individuals with housing and supportive services that meet their needs, is the most effective way to support our unhoused neighbors on the path to housing — and improve the health and safety of our entire community.

The King County Regional Homelessness Authority is leading the deployment of Partnership for Zero. The Unified Command Center will be managed by KCRHA’s Director of Special Projects, Heidi Wiersma, with representatives from the Lived Experience Coalition, the City of Seattle, and King County.

Partnership for Zero is an innovative public-private effort that is bringing people with the lived experience of homelessness, government, business, philanthropy, and service providers together to dramatically reduce homelessness in our communities, beginning with Downtown Seattle.

Partnership for Zero is an initiative of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) and is receiving significant private funding through We Are In, a coalition of housed and unhoused King County residents, business, philanthropy, advocates, and service providers.. 

KCRHA leads the day-to-day operations of Partnership for Zero, which includes, but is not limited to, the coordination of the Unified Command Center, comprising representatives from the Lived Experience Coalition, the City of Seattle, King County, and KCRHA, the development of a by-name list, and the deployment of systems advocates to engage in tailored, personalized outreach.

Partnership for Zero is led by KCRHA, which is publicly funded by both the City of Seattle and King County. Through We Are In, business and philanthropic partners are contributing significant funding towards this public-private partnership. Private funders include: Ballmer Group, who has contributed a lead gift, as well as Alaska Airlines, Amazon, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Campion Foundation, Costco, Expedia Group, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, JP Morgan Chase Pacific Northwest, Kaiser Permanente Washington, Madrona Venture Group, Microsoft Philanthropies, Nordstrom, PATH, Puget Sound Energy, Raikes Foundation, REI, Russell Investments, Schultz Family Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Starbucks, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Symetra, T-Mobile, Weyerhaeuser, and Zillow Group.

Joining We Are In is the best way to stay engaged and informed about Partnership for Zero. Visit wearein.org to sign up for our email updates and follow us on social media at @WeAreInKingCo. We also encourage members to follow KCRHA for updates, at https://kcrha.org/ and @KC_RHA.