Can a regional agency actually help Seattle’s homeless problem?

Dec 9, 2019, 8:06 AM
Homelessness, homeless, Dow Constantine, Jenny Durkan, homeless response, King County homeless auth...
Seattle and King County leaders announcing legislation back in September for a new unified authority to tackle homelessness. (Hanna Scott, KIRO Radio)
(Hanna Scott, KIRO Radio)

A plan to create a joint regional homeless authority in the Puget Sound region took a necessary step forward last week, but how exactly will it help the area’s homeless crisis?

Regional homeless agency clears major hurdle

Some have worried that the yet-to-be-established governing body would take Seattle’s homeless problem and simply redistribute it across other areas of the region. Others, though, argue that it’s merely a better allocation of resources.

“Really the whole point of a regional council is that Seattle gets flooded with [homeless] people, and is bearing the bulk of the weight for this,” Candy, Mike and Todd co-host Mike Lewis described. “So why not create regional housing and within the city as well, and then get people near the services, and housed near the services they need?”

That in turn has sparked a debate across residents of cities who aren’t exactly enthusiastic about the idea of providing aid to another city’s homeless population.

“Some people would communicate this as NIMBY versus YIMBY — ‘not in my backyard’ or ‘yes, in my backyard,'” co-host Todd Herman noted.

Beyond that, the greater question relates to the potential for potentially falling back on bureaucracy to solve what’s been an urgent crisis both in Seattle and across King County.

In the latest version of the plan to establish the regional authority, it would be largely governed by a committee composed of representatives from Seattle, King County, the Sound Cities Association, and people who have experienced homelessness themselves. Seattle also stands to kick in $73 million of the total $130 million budget for the proposal.

That all being so, can something this large properly address something as focused as providing housing and homeless services in a handful of outlying cities?

Seattle, County homeless response paralyzed by bureaucracy

“Here is one of the views that I hold as someone who believes that smaller government is more nimble, more responsive,” said Herman. “I don’t think a regional council can do anything but muddle a situation when you’re talking about specific placement of housing.”

In the days ahead, the proposal still has some significant hurdles to clear, as lawmakers in both Seattle and King County continue to work on a plan that pleases all involved.

Listen to the Candy, Mike and Todd Show weekday afternoons from 3-7 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Can a regional agency actually help Seattle’s homeless problem?