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Critical of regional homeless plan, Reagan Dunn drops his own proposals

File photo. (AP)

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn made no secret about the fact that he wasn’t a fan of the new Regional Homeless Authority proposed by King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan last week.

“We can do better than more bureaucrats and more taxes,” Dunn said in a statement last Thursday. “This new layer of government would be undemocratically structured, lack representation of suburban cities, and be yet another expense on taxpayers.”

“The homelessness crisis won’t be solved by pushing Seattle’s failed policies to the surrounding region,” he added. “Elected officials need to stop passing the buck on homelessness and to start making the tough choices our constituents deserve.”

Dunn promised to have his own proposals to take on the homeless, drug and mental health crisis within days, and on Tuesday kept his word, dropping multiple proposals for the King County Council to consider.

“These are a whole series of proposals that follow up on my opposition to a new level of government on homelessness,” Dunn said Tuesday. “Instead, these are policies that have worked across the country with proven records of reducing homelessness.”

Reagan Dunn’s legislation

Dunn’s legislation includes a proposal for a trio of pilot programs, including a Homeless Integrate Outreach team that would go to Metro bus stops and other areas where homeless people gather.

The team is modeled after a pilot program in L.A. County where Dunn says they go out and work with the homeless and help triage them into services they need.

“So you’ve got nurses or a nurse, a substance abuse and a mental health counselor, you’ve got former homeless folks as well as an outreach worker, and they move around the community and one on one they talk to homeless folks and try to get them to the services that they so desperately need,” Dunn explained, adding that the L.A. program has contacted nearly 5,000 people, many who they’ve been able to help get out of homelessness.

Dunn is also proposing a family unification program known as Homeward Bound that would give bus tickets to the homeless specifically to get them back to their family.

“Seattle has really become a dead end street for the nation’s homeless population,” Dunn said, pointing out that nearly one in ten of those surveyed in the latest annual Point in Time homeless count said that family reunification would help them find a way to get into permanent housing.

Success in other cities

Dunn says New York, San Francisco, and several other cities have had success by investing anywhere from tens of thousands to a million dollars in their bus ticket programs, while King County has only invested close to 40,000 in reunification efforts.

The third proposal would develop a program like one in San Diego where the medical examiner notifies doctors when one of their patients dies as a result of opioids they prescribed to them.

Dunn says in San Diego, the program has helped cut opioid prescriptions by 10 percent.

“That’s a small part of a more global solution to drug and alcohol abuse, which includes a whole lot more beds we’re going to need,” Dunn said.

Dunn says all of these things can be done within our local government infrastructure and he doesn’t believe they need a new government to do these sorts of things.

Dunn says his proposals will go through the county council legislative process and it remains to be seen which will move forward, but he expects committees to start taking them up in the next couple of weeks.

Meantime, the King County and Seattle councils will start taking up the proposed Regional Homeless Authority this week and next week, and Dunn says at this point, at the county council, the passage of the regional governance proposal is on the bubble.

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