Marc Dones steps down as head of King County Regional Homeless Authority

May 16, 2023, 11:40 AM | Updated: 3:37 pm

Marc Dones...

King County Regional Homeless Authority CEO Marc Dones (King County Government Channel)

(King County Government Channel)

Marc Dones, the CEO of the King County Regional Homeless Authority (KCRHA), has decided to step down after leading the department for two years.

“The KCRHA team and our city and county partners are grateful and appreciative of the visionary work of CEO Marc Dones in starting up the King County Regional Homelessness Authority as a new regional agency,” Anne Martens, the senior director of External Affairs & Communications at KCRHA, wrote in a prepared statement.

“Mx. Dones has served as CEO since 2021, and was deeply involved in the design of the agency from its first inception in 2018,” the statement continued. “They have been a tireless advocate for racial equity and social justice, centering lived experience, increasing affordable housing, highlighting root causes of economic instability, and working together to iterate on new approaches to transforming the homelessness response system.”

Prior to taking on the role of inaugural CEO for the organization, they were the founder and executive director of the National Innovation Service (NIS), an advocacy group that focused largely on reshaping racial equity in the United States. Dones also worked with the then-governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, on the “design and implementation” of a youth violence production program spanning 11 cities.

King County struggling to find solutions to keep homeless off the streets permanently

“As a queer Black person, I have watched many members of my community burn out trying to hold too much for too many and I have watched them become unable to contribute the full breadth of their talent or vision to the work,” Dones wrote in their resignation letter. “I have watched them become bitter and destructive and what I know is that I don’t want that for myself.”

In their letter, Dones cited the need to revisit the structures of the boards and their capacity to partner with the CEO to effectively get work done, claiming regionalism is the correct path, and that requires the appropriate governing structure to be successful and effective.

“We have to be able to name the underlying causes and focus our energy appropriately,” Dones continued in their letter. “In order to do better, we must all commit to telling the whole truth, not just about the work now, but also how generations of systemic racism and oppression, decisions made by people in positions of power, brought us here.”

KCRHA’s purpose and function will remain the same despite new leadership — to unify and coordinate policy and funding across all of King County for a regional approach to the local homelessness crisis.

“In two years, under CEO Dones’s leadership, KCRHA has hired 100 people, focused on unsheltered homelessness, reimagined the point-in-time count to include the stories of people affected, resolved 13 long-standing encampments, deployed the most successful Emergency Housing Voucher strategy in the nation, and developed a more accurate count of the number of people experiencing homelessness so that we can match the scale of the solution to the scale of the problem,” Marten’s statement continued.

The point-in-time count was KCRHA’s system for tracking how many people were living unsheltered within the county, but the methodology faced criticism for not providing accurate data, as it relied on volunteers to hand-count the number of people they observed living unsheltered on a single night, and then calculate a rough estimate of people they believe they might have missed living in abandoned buildings.

KCRHA decided to skip the process in 2022.

“We thank KCRHA CEO Marc Dones for their service to communities across King County and their work supporting those experiencing homelessness and all our neighbors,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and King County Executive Dow Constantine wrote in a joint address. “Marc’s drive to innovate systems, improve housing stability, and help people move off the streets and inside with the support they need is rooted in a staunch commitment to ending homelessness. From leading the design of the KCRHA to taking the reins as its first CEO, Marc has played an indispensable role in transforming ‘regional solutions to homelessness’ from an idea to tangible action.”

KCRHA estimated it would take approximately $11.8 billion to address homelessness, a financial number introduced to the county through its 5-year plan to end homelessness. The plan requires $8.4 billion in new one-time capital costs over five years and between $1.7 billion and $3.4 billion in additional annual operating costs.

The agency’s current annual budget is approximately $250 million.

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

According to The Seattle Times, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had to send a letter to the KCRHA last November to warn the organization to stop bypassing federal rules and follow the federal department’s system for selecting who gets to move into housing from streets or shelters — a process the entire country has to use.

Deputy CEO Helen Howell will step in as interim CEO for the immediate future.

“We are grateful for Helen’s proven experience in this field, which will be critical for ensuring steady, capable leadership through this transition,” Harrell and Constantine’s joint address continued. “The Governing Board will work with the Implementation Board and key partners to launch a search for KCRHA’s next CEO. It is our priority to identify a candidate with the expertise, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to equity to build on existing work and accelerate efforts to bring more people indoors.”

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Marc Dones steps down as head of King County Regional Homeless Authority