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Regional homeless agency clears major hurdle

A homeless man sleeps on the sidewalk in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

A plan to create a joint regional homeless agency won unanimous approval from the King County’s Regional Policy Committee on Thursday.

The latest version, according to the council, would not create a public development authority, but would establish a partnership agreement between Seattle and King County. The county says it would maintain the flexibility it had with a previous version of the proposal, and would add accountability to elected officials.

The new plan heads to King County Council for final approval next week.

To fund the new agency, the city will kick in $75 million and the county will contribute $57 million to reach the initial budget of almost $132 million. The county says this money was already allocated to homelessness response in their respective budgets.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a statement on Thursday, shortly after the vote:

“Our region needs one unified system that has the governance, authority, and resources to deliver to people experiencing homelessness. Since May of 2018, Executive Constantine and I have worked closely together to move forward on a bold plan to consolidate our fractured homelessness response, centering our plan on the individuals experiencing homelessness and frontline service providers. So many have worked on the issue for many years understanding that the status quo is not acceptable.”

The agreement between the city and county would exist for five years and auto-renew in the sixth year unless it’s changed beforehand.

Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, lead sponsor of the legislation and Chair of the King County Council’s Health, Housing and Human Services Committee also issued a statement:

“This has been an incredibly complex process that’s taken place involving elected leaders and regional stakeholders with differing points of view on how this new authority should operate. We have a citizenry that is hungry for change. They see fragmentation everywhere and issues regarding homelessness that are only worsening. I believe we have crafted a proposal that has the capacity to build a solid alliance across governments and agencies informed by experts and significantly by those with lived experiences of homelessness to finally begin to reverse the effects of this bleak chapter in our region’s history.”

Councilmember Claudia Balducci’s statement:

“I know from personal experience coming into the courthouse each day and from internal and independent reviews and audits that our homelessness response system is failing to meet the need in our County. We must strengthen accountability, eliminate gaps and redundancies in services, and build a system that helps people experiencing homelessness access services, and move off the streets and into stable housing. The proposed new approach will work towards meeting these goals by aligning priorities, bringing experts and people with lived experience into the decision-making process, and doing this work together with all of our County partner jurisdictions.”

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