How is the RHA different from the old system?
The Regional Homelessness Authority is meant to unify and coordinate what was previously a fragmented approach. We heard from people with personal experience that the old system’s services were geographicall and administratively disconnected, data collection was duplicative, burdensome, or not useful, and people were faced with dead ends rather than meaningful support.
Unified & Coordinated
The RHA will transform a fragmented series of programs and departments into a unified, streamlined and coordinated system, built on equity and social justice principles, centering the voices of those 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.
This proposal also centers the perspectives of people who have personal, lived experience with homelessness — we may refer to these people as “customers” because we want to appropriately position people experiencing homelessness as individuals with dignity and agency who are receiving a service that they have requested from paid staff. In addition, the word “customer” reflects a person’s fundamental right to be satisfied with the services.
The RHA will apply the lessons of effective practices like enhanced shelters and emphasize human-centered responses to homelessness, explicitly addressing disparities existing in communities that are disproportionately experiencing homelessness. The addition of a new Ombuds Office also gives customers a central place to seek service improvements.
What programs and services are moving to the Regional Homelessness Authority?
The RHA’s scope of work will include City of Seattle and King County’s homelessness response system, and may expand to include other cities in King County as they sign on to the Interlocal Agreement for a regional approach. There will be some transition time as the RHA ramps up, and the RHA’s programs and services will include:
- Prevention from homelessness for persons at imminent risk of housing loss
- Outreach to persons experiencing homelessness
- Diversion from homelessness to housing
- Rapid Rehousing
- Services associated with Permanent Supportive Housing
- Strategic planning, system administration and performance measurement.
How were community members involved in developing the RHA and the regional approach?
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 in 2018, leading to the call for the creation of a consolidated regional authority.
During the design phase, customers, equity experts, and front-line staff continued to serve as critical consultants, particularly in co-creating key aspects of the RHA by participating in workshops focused on governance, values and priorities of the redesigned system, and the structure and role of the Ombuds program.
We also engaged elected officials and staff from multiple jurisdictions across all of King County, non-profit leaders, and philanthropy and business leaders. These partners are united in calling for a more coordinated system, because stronger partnerships and coordination of resources and efforts creates the best chance for success. Our partners were present at every stage of designing this consolidated, regional approach and we will continue to seek input as we move forward.
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, gaps and priorities, but we all share a desire for thriving communities, and we all agree that every person deserves to have a safe and stable place to live. That’s why the Interlocal Agreement (ILA) requires the Authority to analyze and articulate local needs, priorities and solutions that will work for our local communities, including cities in north, east, south, and rural King County.
What happens to the Seattle and King County employees who have been working on these issues?
The teams of people at King County and the City of Seattle who have been providing oversight, contract monitoring, and direct services to address homelessness are dedicated to their work and to the vulnerable people they serve — they deserve our deep respect and appreciation. Seattle and County leaders have sought their input throughout the design and planning phase, they will continue to be actively engaged in the implementation phase, and are encouraged to apply for positions at the KCRHA.
Seattle and County employees (including All Home) have different compensation structures, benefits, and labor representation. Their respective executive branches will continue to engage employees and work through their administrative processes and structures to support employees during the transition period.
Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis in our community and it demands urgent, pragmatic, coordinated and comprehensive regional action. We have years of analysis 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. In a region known for innovation and prosperity, there is no excuse for waiting any longer. Now is the time to act.