Dori: Regional homeless authority wants $90 million more; King Co. Councilman Dunn calls for audit

Aug 30, 2022, 4:32 PM | Updated: Aug 31, 2022, 6:23 am
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)...
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

As the number of people living on the streets appears to soar, the King County Regional Homeless Authority (KCRHA) has announced it wants another $90 million annually to deal with this troubled population – but King County Councilman Reagan Dunn says he wants an audit first.

“More money is not the solution to this problem,” Dunn told Dori Monson Show listeners Tuesday. “We need some ‘tough love’ strategies to hold people accountable. We’ve got to stop the out-of-flow homeless population. We have a moral obligation to take care of our own homeless folks but not a moral obligation to take care of people being bused from Detroit or Miami or Texas.”

Already, Dori noted, King County has been receiving about $120 million a year from local taxpayers. The $90 million increase sought by KCRHA would amount to a 75% increase.

What’s driving the request for more money? A dramatic increase in the so-called “one-night count,” which attempts to tally the number of people living on the streets and tapping into homeless resources throughout King County. When Marc Dones was hired as chief executive officer of the KCRHA in 2021, he cited the need for an accurate count as vital to “understand the scope and scale of the problem in order to design solutions to meet the need.”

But Dunn – a self-described “budget hawk” – questions the disparity in numbers that are being reported by KCRHA and other homeless agencies. One count shows 13,368 in 2021, while another points to 40,800. Both are higher than 2020 tallies.

Number of homeless people in King County is up nearly 14% since 2020, 57% remain unsheltered 

“We’re seeing dramatic increases in the one-night count population . . . and there has not been an audit of the authority,” Dunn told Dori. “It’s kind of a perfect storm: when you allow drugs and you don’t enforce laws and you don’t have a mechanism to keep people from coming in from out-of-state and benefiting from the subsidies paid for by King County taxpayers, it’s going to keep getting worse until we change our policies.”

In comparison, Dunn points out, Los Angeles County – with an overall population five times that of King County – spends $400 million on its homeless issues. That, Dunn says, means L.A. is addressing the related problems with about “half our funding. More money is not the solution to this problem.”

Since King County enacted a “well-intentioned 10-year Plan to End Homelessness” in 2004, nearly $1 billion has been spent on those who tap into homeless services, Dori said. And yet, he added, the numbers have grown. One report shows that between King County, Seattle, and federal budgets, more than $195 million was spent on local homelessness in 2017 alone.

“Money is creating the problem,” Dunn said. “The more free stuff you give out in Free-attle, the more subsidized and free housing, the more you’re doing to draw more people from outside the community in. That’s one of the reasons we think we need to do something about accountability to the taxpayer.”

Listen to Dori Monson weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Dori: Regional homeless authority wants $90 million more; King Co. Councilman Dunn calls for audit