A Systems Advocate is a peer agent and resource connector who identifies gaps in support and the changes necessary to improve the systems that impact our unhoused neighbors.

System Advocates engage in long-term relationships with people experiencing homelessness, using learnings from their own lived expertise, along with empathy, dignity and support for full self-determination in order to house and improve the health and wellbeing of those we serve, particularly Black/Brown, Indigenous, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, LGTBQIA, and neighbors who have historically not had a voice.

The approaches and activities in the Systems Advocate program are rooted in peer navigation, which is a proven best practice. Systems Advocates have lived experience of homelessness and understand how the various social service systems work and how to access resources. That lived experience is an asset in building trust, and in acting as a coach, ally, and advocate throughout the whole process of navigating multiple social service systems and providers.

Through this work of people helping people, the RHA supports our unhoused neighbors as they navigate the system for better outcomes (housing) and experiences, and provides the tools and resources needed to sustain housing, such as budgeting, support interacting with landlords, and other life skills.

What do Systems Advocates do?

  • Meet people at common entry points to homelessness, such as release from jail or hospital, and through engagement with people currently experiencing homelessness.
  • Maintain a longitudinal relationship with clients, in order to help clients navigate systems from getting an ID to getting housing.
  • Collaborate with service providers, government agencies, and KCRHA staff to compile and centralize an open source resource directory that covers the entire King County region.
  • Highlight barriers that clients are facing so that KCRHA staff can be in direct, continuous communication with people experiencing homelessness and work with partners like the Lived Experience Coalition to advocate for eliminating barriers.
  • Improve person-centered data collection and usage as the first adopters of a singular, county-wide By-Name List, with practices in that are continuously improved with service providers and agencies, in order to achieve better outcomes.
  • Fill gaps in the homelessness, behavioral health, and legal systems in order to ensure that client services and transitions between systems are smooth and streamlined for clients and service providers alike.
  • Work with people and partners to help end homelessness.

Partnership for Zero

The Systems Advocates team is an initiative of Partnership for Zero, which is a collaboration designed to reduce unsheltered homelessness across King County, starting with Downtown Seattle. The partnership includes the RHA, the City of Seattle, King County, We Are In, and regional businesses and philanthropies. The Housing Command Center and the development of a comprehensive By Name List data tool are also key initiatives supported by the partnership.