The language used by governments and agencies can sometimes be confusing, which makes it harder to understand exactly what an agency or organization is doing. Here are some definitions of common terms to make sure that our community understands what we’re talking about when we say:


By Name List

A By-Name List includes comprehensive information to support case management and service matching. The list represents the real people in a community experiencing homelessness, updated in real time. Using information collected and shared with their consent, peer navigators and service providers can see each person’s name, homeless history, health, and housing needs in order to provide better case management and service matching.

Continuum of Care (CoC)

A federally required organization that coordinates federal funding and ensure compliance with federal law. The CoC lead entity and governing board was previously All Home, and is now the KCRHA. Our CoC is overseen by an Advisory Committee, and carries out the primary responsibilities of a CoC as identified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):

  1. Ensure collection of homeless system performance data (a “Homeless Management Information System” or HMIS)
  2. Establish and operate a coordinated needs assessment and referral process (“Coordinated Entry”)
  3. Perform analysis to identify gaps in regional homeless services needs.


Physical displacement is the forced movement of people, often as a result of eviction, acquisition, rehabilitation, or demolition of property, or the expiration of covenants on rent- or income-restricted housing. Physical displacement may also occur as a result of natural disasters, or refugee status. Economic displacement occurs when residents can no longer afford rising rents, mortgages or property taxes.


Diversion is an intervention that diverts a person from emergency shelter and prevents long-term homelessness by addressing immediate needs. For example, a service provider could use flexible financial resources for things like rent arrears, transportation, utilities, and deposits

Emergency Shelter

Emergency shelters are places where the primary purpose is to provide a temporary shelter for people experiencing homelessness, and which does not require the person to sign a lease. 

Shelters can be “congregate,” in a communal space like one big room with several cots or mats, or “non-congregate,” where each person has a space that is separate from other people, like a room with walls or a “Tiny House.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an effort to provide more non-congregate models.

Most shelters serve specific categories like single adults (with males and females separated, and few options for trans or non-binary people), youth and young adults, or families with children. Many shelters do not allow pets. Some shelters are only open for limited hours, for example an overnight shelter might have a curfew of 10pm and require people to be up and out by 7am. Some shelters have requirements that must be met before a person can stay there. Many shelters are “enhanced,” which means they provide access to supportive services.

Functional Zero

Functional Zero is achieved when there are enough services, housing and shelter beds for everyone who needs it. Functional Zero means that our system has reached a point where it is able to adequately serve the people who we are attempting to reach, by appropriately providing interventions based on their needs. 

Functional Zero is not Absolute Zero, which would mean that there is no homelessness at all.

In addressing Veterans Homelessness, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says that functional zero is reached when the number of veterans experiencing homelessness within a community is less than the average number of veterans being connected with permanent housing each month.

Housing First

An evidence-based approach that offers housing first, without any pre-conditions or requirements such as employment, income, absence of criminal record, or sobriety. Housing First recognizes that housing, and the safety and stability it provides, is a basic human need. Once stably housed, a person can connect with services that address medical, mental health, or addiction issues as well as services that support employment, education, and other efforts towards self-sufficiency.

Interlocal Agreement

A written contract between local government agencies such as a city, a county, a special jurisdiction like Sound Transit, or a school board. Read the RHA’s Interlocal Agreement between the City of Seattle and King County.


Outreach workers engage with people living unsheltered in places like cars, RVs, parks, encampments, and abandoned buildings. Outreach workers help ensure that basic needs are met and help connect people to shelters, housing, and supportive services.

Peer Navigators / Systems Advocates

Peer Navigators or Systems Advocates do outreach work and add-on a long-term commitment to stay with a particular person experiencing homelessness, offering support and advice as a coach, ally, and advocate through multiple organizations across the health care system, criminal justice system, and social services system, as a person moves from homeless to housed.

Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)

Permanent Supportive Housing combines permanent housing with supportive services. The permanent housing usually includes long-term leases or rental assistance. Supportive services can include things like case management, child care, education services, employment assistance and job training, food, legal services, mental health services, behavioral health services, substance use disorder services, and transportation.

Public Housing Authority (PHA)

A government agency that provides decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income individuals and families, the elderly, and people with disabilities. In King County, there are three: the Seattle Housing Authority, the King County Housing Authority, and the Renton Housing Authority.

Rapid Re-Housing (RRH)

Rapid Re-Housing provides short-term rental assistance and supportive services, without any pre-conditions or requirements (such as employment, income, absence of criminal record, or sobriety) . The services provided are tailored to the person’s needs. In King County, Rapid Re-Housing providers partner with Housing Connector. Learn more in the guidelines.


When we talk about resources, we mean the people, funding, logistics, and technology that support the administration and provision of services.

Support Services

Refers to all the stakeholders involved in our homelessness response – primarily providers, governments, funding Support services can include things like case management, child care, mental health services, behavioral health services, substance use disorder services, education services, employment assistance and job training, legal services, food, and transportation.

Transitional Housing

Temporary housing with a range of voluntary support services designed to be a bridge between emergency shelter and permanent housing.


A system is a set of things (for example, cells, people, organizations, etc.) that are interconnected in order behave in a certain way to achieve a particular purpose. In our case, the RHA’s purpose is to end homelessness.