How is the RHA different from the previous system?
The Regional Homelessness Authority is meant to unify and coordinate what was previously a fragmented and politicized approach. We heard from people with personal experience that the old system’s services were geographically and administratively disconnected, overly politicized, data collection was duplicative, burdensome, or not useful, and people were faced with dead ends rather than meaningful support.
Our Theory of Change
The Regional Homelessness Authority has a human-centered theory of change that guides our work: If we create a homeless response system that centers people with lived experience, then we will be able to meet needs and eliminate inequities, in order to end homelessness for all.
Unified & Coordinated
The Regional Homelessness Authority, which started up operations in mid-2021, is unifying and coordinating what was previously a fragmented approach—there were many programs, but they weren’t connected or coordinated towards consistent goals. We heard from people with personal experience that the old system’s services were geographically and administratively disconnected, data collection was duplicative, burdensome, or not useful, and people sometimes faced dead ends rather than meaningful support.
While we are working towards improvements, the RHA must also maintain the system we inherited so that there is no interruption in services. We are taking a phased approach to transforming a fragmented series of programs and departments into a unified, streamlined and coordinated system that centers the people most affected.
With the creation of the RHA for Seattle and King County, and as more cities in our region sign on to this approach, we are consolidating policy-making and funding, coordinating service delivery, and adopting common performance measures. As a result, the RHA will hold the primary responsibility for dramatically reducing homelessness.
Centering Lived Experience
The RHA is explicit about centering the perspectives of people who have personal, lived experience of homelessness and housing instability. To hold us accountable to that commitment, representatives of the Lived Experience Coalition sit on our Governing Committee and Implementation Board. Personal experience with homelessness provides insights into how the system works (or doesn’t work) that are based in real life. Centering lived experience follows the social justice maxim of “nothing about us without us.” The addition of an Ombuds Office also gives people experiencing homelessness a central point-of-contact for seeking service improvements.
Centering lived experience also recognizes the structural racism that has perpetuated the racially disparate impacts of homelessness. The RHA uses an equity-based decision-making framework in all our efforts, which means identifying existing inequities and power dynamics, acting with transparency and accountability, and proactively working to dismantle structural racism and advance equity.
What programs and services does the RHA manage?
The RHA administers programs and services for homeless crisis response, including:
- Diversion and prevention of homelessness for people at imminent risk of housing loss
- Outreach to people experiencing homelessness
- Emergency Shelter, including Tiny House Villages
- Rapid Re-Housing
- Coordinate Entry
- Services associated with Permanent Supportive Housing
- Strategic planning, system administration, data and performance measurement
How are community members involved?
Community engagement is a core part of all our work, and sharing accurate information about the causes of and solutions to homelessness is vital. If you are interested in having us come speak with your organization, please contact us here or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We also encourage you to sign up for our newsletter, and visit We Are In for ways to get involved.
Our Sub-Regional Planning Team is out in the community regularly, working with elected officials, city human services staff, homeless service providers, and people with lived experience in all 39 cities and unincorporated King County. The team attends over 20 coalition and regional tables to provide updates and receive feedback from partners.
The work that led up to the creation of the RHA was also community-driven. People with lived experience of homelessness, equity experts, and front-line service providers were key participants throughout the planning and design for the creation of a Regional Homelessness Authority. This began with the 2018 audit of the current system, resulting in the December report by the National Innovation Service. More than 200 people with personal lived experience, front-line provider staff and experience in applying equity and social justice principles participated in workshops and focus groups, resulting in the call for a consolidated regional authority.
Successfully ending homelessness requires partnership and community support, so we will continue to seek out opportunities for community engagement and input as we move forward. We look forward to having a conversation with you!
This is initially an agreement between Seattle and King County. How will other cities be engaged or impacted?
Each city and sub-region in King County has its own strengths, characteristics, challenges and priorities. But, we all share a desire for thriving, inclusive communities, and we all agree that housing is a basic human need and every person should have a safe and stable place to live.
Together with partners, we have identified seven distinct sub-regions, and have Sub-Regional Planning staff dedicated to these distinct parts of the county. Cities and sub-regions have the option of signing an administrative service agreement with the RHA, in order to further unify and coordinate strategies and services. Cities outside of Seattle are also represented on our Governing Committee by the Sound Cities Association.
Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis in our community and it demands urgent, pragmatic, coordinated and comprehensive regional action. We have years of analyses and reports—from national experts to local auditors—showing that program, policy and funding fragmentation limits the ability to improve our response to the crisis. We can see that the previous way of doing things wasn’t working. In a region known for innovation and prosperity, there is no excuse for waiting any longer. Now is the time to act.