KCRHA Year in Review

2023 was KCRHA’s second year of full operations. It was a year of accomplishments, challenges, and learning as we work to ensure the agency is ready to serve our community, leading with a shared path forward in 2024. 

The King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) was formed with broad community support to unify our region around shared responsibility and accountability for reducing unsheltered homelessness, better serving the people who have fallen on hard times.  

We thank our founding CEO, Marc Dones, for their work in starting up the agency and our Interim CEO Helen Howell for her ongoing work to improve operations. We look forward to hiring a new permanent CEO in 2024.  

This work is hard—we are addressing one of the most significant social issues of our time, in an environment of limited resources—and it will take all of us working together to create solutions. 

Unanimous Approval of Our 5-Year Plan 

One of the major milestones accomplished this year was the unanimous approval by both the Implementation Board and the Governing Committee of our community’s 5-Year Plan. The plan recognizes that to bring more people inside each year, we must expand the capacity of the system, optimizing existing resources and investing new resources where they can have the greatest impact. The 5-Year Plan is our path forward, with a three-part approach: 

  • IMPROVE SERVICE PROVIDER OUTCOMES: Improve outcomes at individual service providers (the nonprofits that provide services like outreach and shelter), by ensuring every provider has the staff, tools, and support to implement best practices. 
  • COORDINATE OUR NETWORK OF HOMELESSNESS SERVICES: Coordinate our network of service providers through shared data and accountability, ensuring that services are available across King County and that the needs of disproportionately impacted populations are met. 
  • COLLABORATE ACROSS SYSTEMS: Collaborate across systems—such as healthcare, housing, public safety, employment, education, and more—to prevent homelessness. 

The activities listed in the full 5-Year Plan provide a roadmap and set of action steps to achieve progress on each of these three levels, unifying and coordinating the homeless response system so that it is more transparent, accountable, and effective.  

Better Data = Better Decision-Making 

In 2023, KCRHA worked with partners at the state Department of Commerce to get a better estimate of the number of people experiencing homelessness. The effort aligns with a statewide drive to estimate the number of housing and shelter units needed to meet the current housing shortage and accommodate population growth. 

KCRHA found that 53,000+ people experience homelessness over the course of a year in King County.  

And while the number of people falling into homelessness continues to increase, there are only 5,300 shelter beds for the entire county, and few, if any, vacancies. 

Similarly, every week, non-profits make over 1,000 nominations for people to be placed in Permanent Supportive Housing for single adults—and the demand far exceeds the supply. We started 2023 with about 7,300 units of Permanent Supportive Housing, and while 300 new units opened during 2023 in buildings managed by Plymouth Housing, DESC, and Catholic Community Services, all of the units remain occupied or have current referrals. 

In 2024, we are updating data standards and dashboards, and working on a new tool that will show real-time availability of beds in emergency shelters—a tool that could facilitate faster, more effective placements of people in shelter.  

Better data gives us a clear picture of the problem and of the solution. We ask that neighborhoods and communities support new housing and shelter at the scale needed to move more people inside. 

Stronger Operations & Technical Support 

Since May 2023, when Interim CEO Helen Howell took over operations, the agency has been conducting a thorough assessment to strengthen operations and prepare for a new permanent CEO.  

This ongoing assessment includes a review of programs and staffing, changes in response to recent audits, working to streamline processes for contracts and fiscal operations, and improving customer service—getting back to basics so that the agency can be better equipped to accomplish the larger goal of unifying and coordinating homelessness response. KCRHA also works in partnership with the non-profit organizations that provide outreach, shelter, and supportive services, to ensure compliance with contracts and regulatory requirements, providing onsite technical assistance and additional support and training in virtual office hours.  

As one of six communities chose for the Biden Administration’s “All Inside” initiative, KCRHA also received support and assistance to learn how to better leverage federal funding opportunities

Looking forward, these efforts are essential to prepare for a planned re-design of contracts, in collaboration with non-profit service providers, to make the system more strategic, coordinated, and efficient. 

A Regional Approach 

KCRHA continues to work with cities across King County towards shared responsibility for bringing our unhoused neighbors inside. When we work together to welcome affordable housing and shelter in every neighborhood, more people can come inside, and our communities will be cleaner and safer—because housing and shelter provide the stability and supportive services that help people rebuild their lives.  

North King County cities of Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Bothell, and Woodinville are leaders in establishing an agreement with KCRHA to pool their investments for coordinated homelessness response.  

KCRHA thanks the City of Seattle and King County for their continued support, and for their investment in sustaining homelessness response across the region.  

  • The voters of King County showed their support for improving prevention and response efforts through approval of the Veterans & Human Services Levy. 
  • Seattle voters elevated the importance of housing affordability in their approval of the Housing Levy.  
  • In 2023 the state legislature made historic investments in housing and homelessness response, and state partners have shown that this work is a priority for the state as well as for the region. KCRHA also applied for significant funding from the federal government and continues to work with partners to leverage every opportunity for federal support. 

The majority of funding that KCRHA receives is passed through to non-profit direct service providers in outreach, shelter, and supportive services who are working hard to help people experiencing homelessness stay safe, come inside whenever housing and shelter are available, and take steps towards long-term stability. 

Moving People Inside 

Teams have moved 335 people inside from 10 encampments on state highways in King County, with state funding that supports outreach, housing, and ongoing support services. The State Right of Way Safety Initiative, now called the Encampment Resolution Initiative, is operated in partnership with outreach providers PDA and REACH, the City of Seattle, and state agencies WSDOT, WSP, and the Department of Commerce—setting an example of effective collaboration and showing that evidence-based practices work to move people from encampments into permanent housing. Outreach teams take the time to build trust and understand what people need so they can match them to housing and shelter when resources become available. 89% of the people on these state highway sites accept the housing and shelter that is offered, and remain housed

In 2023, KCRHA made the difficult decision to wind down a philanthropically funded pilot program called Partnership for Zero, which was an ambitious effort to resolve homelessness across downtown Seattle. While the program fell short of its initial goals, there was progress and learning along the way. Through the hard work of KCRHA Systems Advocates, all of whom had lived experience of homelessness, the program was able to move 231 people out of encampments and into permanent housing. In addition, the pilot gave KCRHA the opportunity to improve data collection, centralize identification of housing units, practice emergency management protocols, and improve collaboration with service providers and other partners. The infrastructure developed and learning produced through the pilot project is being integrated into our system going forward. 

One of the great successes of Partnership for Zero was a collaboration with the state on a joint Services and Benefits fair to help people get the identification documents that are required for housing, jobs, and social service benefits—documents that are an essential step towards rebuilding lives. 

Centering Lived Experience 

KCRHA continues to center lived experience in the work that we do every day. This ongoing alignment of values is built into our community engagement, our data collection, our review and rating process for funding, and the questions we ask of ourselves and our community.  

One of the most visible ways that we center lived experience is through the Office of the Ombuds, which works with people experiencing homelessness every day, connecting people with resources, investigating complaints, and collecting feedback that will make our system more accountable and more effective.  

Looking Forward 

As we head into 2024, we look forward to bringing on new leadership, collaborating with the non-profit service providers that do the front-line work of helping people, connecting more people to housing and supportive services, and encouraging every community to do their part in this shared regional effort to solve homelessness.