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Head of Seattle’s homelessness response to resign

A homeless camp in Seattle's Georgetown neighborhood. (KIRO Radio, Carolyn Ossorio)

Acting Seattle Human Services Director Jason Johnson announced Friday that he will resign. According to an email sent to his staff, he will remain in office until June. The resignation was initially reported by Erica C. Barnett on Twitter.

“When I agreed to serve in the Interim Director role, I committed to doing so in that capacity for up to two years,” Johnson wrote in an email to staff. “As we approach the two-year mark, it is with a heavy heart and also a great sense of accomplishment and pride, that I share with you the difficult decision to end my tenure at the Human Services Department.”

Johnson is primarily responsible for the City of Seattle’s response to homelessness. He has been in the position since May 2018.

Last spring, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that Johnson, the interim director at the time, would be withdrawing for consideration to permanently fill the role after a contentious confirmation process.

Durkan had nominated Johnson to assume the role permanently, but Councilmemeber Kshama Sawant delayed the nomination with a resolution, that was later struck down. Delays continued to follow, prompting the eventual withdrawal.

Mayor Durkan withdraws Human Services nomination, cites ‘deeply unfair’ process

“Jason has brought his life experience, and heart and soul, to his work,” Mayor Durkan said in a statement Friday. “Over the last seven years at the City, Jason has delivered every step of the way to make our City a better place. Under his leadership over the last two years, the City have moved forward to our region’s largest systemic change to the fractured homelessness response – the creation of a new countywide homelessness entity. He implemented changes to our contracting to require more accountability for results and racial equity, oversaw a significant transformation of our emergency response to provide significantly more enhanced shelters, and increased our shelter capacity by almost 25 percent. He acted with compassion and grace, and it is unfortunate that the City will lose his leadership. In the coming months as we begin a search process, he will continue to work to ensure the successful launch of the Regional Homelessness Authority and HSD’s mission of serving children, seniors, and the most vulnerable in our community.”

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