Volunteer group lambasts King County Regional Homeless Authority’s ballooning budget

Feb 9, 2023, 5:22 PM | Updated: 6:46 pm


On 3rd Avenue South and South Holgate Street in the shadow of T-Mobile Park where the Seattle Mariners play baseball, homeless people are living in RVs and tents along a two block stretch in Seattle, Washington Friday July 22, 2022. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

(Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) is requesting nearly $12 billion to address local homelessness over the next five years, a dramatic increase over its initial $253 million budget for 2023.

The proposal’s budget is broken down into two parts: $8.4 billion for one-time capital costs over the five-year period and an additional $3.4 billion for operating expenses.

“If money was the solution, wouldn’t we have solved this 20 years ago?” Andrea Suarez, founder and executive director of We Heart Seattle, asked Dave Ross. “Every major city keeps getting more millions and billions of dollars. Meanwhile, we can stand up 20,000 beds in New York City for refugees that are coming in from Ukraine, with services, toilets, bathrooms, medical care, and nurses … it’s a bit different when you’re dealing with drug addiction and that is what KCRHA doesn’t address at all.”

Fight over homeless hotel shelters arrives in Kirkland

We Heart Seattle is a community-based organization that organizes trash cleanups in public spaces and offers resources to those in need, including setting people up with safe housing, shelters, and treatment facilities.

We Heart Seattle attempts to “house our neighbors quickly without the typical restrictions, delays, and inefficiency that has kept many on the streets,” according to the organization’s website.

“We’ve been boots on the ground for two years here in Seattle, providing a platform for volunteerism to clean up our shared spaces,” Suarez said. “We have cleared over 780,000 pounds of trash from our parks and shared spaces and picked up over 20,000 needles. As a person who is not very civic-minded or plugged into city politics at all prior, we have an addiction problem in our city and in many cities across our nation. And it shouldn’t be political.”

KCRHA held an implementation board meeting Wednesday for community feedback, where many residents and parents expressed anger over the organization’s handling of the homeless crisis and the cost to fix it. An encampment in the Wallingford neighborhood under I-5 was brought up on multiple occasions.

“You are failing in your jobs,” said Don Mackenzie, specifically referring to the Wallingford encampment, at the public forum. “You are failing my neighborhood. You have shown disregard and contempt about our concerns for kids being exposed. Why would anyone support further spending on homelessness when you can’t do anything useful with the money you already receive?”

Suarez refers to Alberta’s success with dropping overdosing rates as a potential blueprint for Seattle and other cities in similar situations.

Alberta saw an approximate 50% drop in overdoses in 2022 compared to 2021, something the United Conservative Party and Conservative Party of Canada both take credit for after launching a new recovery-oriented approach to its region’s drug crisis.

Their plan included residential addiction treatment, narcotic transition services, and therapy while actively distributing Naloxone in an effort to make it more accessible. Alberta residents can also use a mobile phone app to alert medical authorities to someone who becomes unresponsive while taking drugs.

Protesters want King County to rethink developing ‘homeless megaplex’

“They’re holding a conference, in fact, in February in Calgary,” Suarez said. “I hope every city leader in Seattle has purchased their ticket. Let’s not reinvent the wheel. They have a working model. Go to Alberta.”

Part of KCRHA’s plan is Housing First: An approach that recognizes housing is necessary to address any other underlying medical situations, mental health concerns, or addiction issues someone may be facing. Housing First believes employment, education, and other steps towards self-sufficiency start with housing — something Suarez believes KCRHA should reconsider.

“Fundamentally flawed. Should be abolished,” Suarez said regarding Housing First. “It works for some, but we’re talking about chronic street homelessness. What we see in our parks, our sidewalks, people who cannot care for themselves. If you know anything about addiction, we have to have some kind of facilitated and mandated treatment. Not saying incarceration forever. I’m saying arrest, stop the behavior, triage to treatment, mandate addiction treatment for all, and get people to a pathway of self sufficiency so they can get a job and get a house.

“That’s how humanity should work,” Suarez continued. “To elevate, empower, and help people reach their full potential, instead of enabling them to slowly die by enabling their addiction through these failing harm-reduction policies and failing free housing-for-life policies.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Dave's Commentary

Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

MyNorthwest News

Photo: KIRO Newsradio is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its "newsradio" format with a special ...

MyNorthwest Staff

KIRO celebrates 50th anniversary of ‘newsradio’ format with special alumni broadcast

KIRO Newsradio is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its "newsradio" format with a special broadcast featuring several prominent alumni.

10 hours ago

Photo: Police swarm Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood after shooting on July 3....

James Lynch

Police identify 2 girls who were with alleged Alderwood Mall shooter

There are new developments in last week's deadly shooting at Alderwood Mall. Jayda Woods-Johnson, 13, was killed.

12 hours ago

Photo: A sea lion pup at the Point Defiance Zoo bonds with its mother....

Julia Dallas

Sea lion pup earns her name at local zoo; another animal expecting

Woodland Park Zoo and Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium both have news! Two animals are experiencing motherhood for the first time.

13 hours ago

Photo: Saks OFF 5th at Westlake Center in downtown Seattle will close on July 20....

Bill Kaczaraba

Departure of Saks from downtown Seattle hits retail core with another bit of bad news

Downtown Seattle’s retail core is taking another hit with the announcement that Saks OFF 5th will close this month.

14 hours ago

portland hospitals...

Frank Sumrall

2,400 patients potentially exposed to HIV, hepatitis in Portland hospitals

More than 2,400 patients at hospitals in Portland, Oregon could have potentially been exposed to infectious diseases -- including hepatitis B, C and HIV.

16 hours ago

Photo: Police say a man reached for his chicken sandwich, flipping his car....

Bill Kaczaraba

Chicken sandwich causes car to flip in Vancouver

It turned out to be a very bad day for a man who dropped his chicken sandwich in his car. He flipped his vehicle reaching for it.

17 hours ago

Volunteer group lambasts King County Regional Homeless Authority’s ballooning budget