Regional Homeless Authority continues to provide aid for homeless during recent heatwaves

Aug 18, 2022, 8:20 AM
(KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

In the midst of a series of heatwaves across the state, the King County Regional Homeless Authority (KCRHA) allocated numerous resources to help support the local homeless population from the recent extreme weather.

“We put up cooling canopies in three locations: White Center, Georgetown, and Shoreline. We also activated city hall and a space on Beacon Hill. We activated, with our partners, King County libraries, Seattle libraries had some space available,” said Marc Dones, CEO of KCRHA, during the organization’s bi-monthly meeting with Seattle City Council. “All of that information was coordinated daily through sub-regional calls, and then pushed to the KCRHA website, which was then coordinated with the public information officers from all of the agencies and distributed across the county.”

KCRHA served approximately 680 homeless individuals at these centers, providing cooling supplies, resources and services onsite, and building relationships with partnering agencies.

Public Health for Seattle & King County donated 1,200 bottles of water, 576 bottles of Gatorade, 215 bottles of sunscreen, and 120 reusable water bottles to outreach providers as well as some additional cooling tents.

Around the country, heat contributes to some 1,500 deaths annually, and advocates estimate about half of those people are homeless, according to the Associated Press.

Late last month, Seattle set a new record for the longest heat wave in the city’s history by logging six consecutive days with a temperature in the 90s. The previous record was five straight 90-degree days, set in 1941, 1981, and 2015.

Portland set a similar record — seven days in a row above 95 degrees.

The City of Seattle cleared three homeless encampments during last month’s heat advisory warning issued by the National Weather Service, a decision KCRHA has publicly opposed.

‘Tough’ decisions as county authority, Seattle diverge over approach to downtown homeless camps

Seattle is expected to have a high in the mid-80s today before nearly a week of cooler weather hits the region. The final week of August is expected to flirt daily with 90-plus degree weather before September arrives.

“We continued to focus on how we centered the needs of folks by helping people stay in their communities and providing cooling supplies,” Dones said. “We’re continuing to learn the lesson that a lot of folks are not necessarily hopping on Metro to head into downtown to go to city hall or other places, but they actually would prefer to shelter in place for the duration of the incident.”

KCRHA recently secured additional funding, bringing the organization’s total this fiscal year to approximately $50 million.

“What’s next? We will continue to engage with folks on the five-year plan,” Dones said. “We have several opportunities for folks to submit any written feedback.”

KCRHA’s five-year implementation plan works through multiple engagements with people experiencing homelessness, service providers, elected officials, city human services staff, and coalitions. The plan is broken up into seven parts: Measurable actions, outcomes, and goals; sub-regional planning activities; procurement processes; terms and conditions for contracts; data collection; continuous improvement; and budgeting.

“It’s a strategic roadmap to transform the system,” Dones said. “The administrative transformation of this system was accomplished in the creation of KCRHA, but now we have to transform what the system does, what services it delivers, and how well it delivers them. So that is what we are building with community partners.”

Prior to becoming the first CEO of KCRHA, Dones was the founder and executive director of the National Innovation Service (NIS), a consulting firm that helps governments redesign their approaches to supporting marginalized populations. Dones has been KCRHA’s CEO for 18 months now.

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Regional Homeless Authority continues to provide aid for homeless during recent heatwaves