King County approves $100K to buy bus tickets for people experiencing homelessness

SEATTLE -- The King County Council has approved $100,000 to fund a program that would buy people experiencing homelessness a bus ticket to help reunite them with their families.

The funding is part of the county's supplemental budget and nearly triples the $37,000 the county currently spends on family reunification services.

Although it's a significant increase in funding for the program, it's far less than the $1 million that Councilman Reagan Dunn had initially proposed.

King County is also working on a Homeward Bound program that would bring current reunification and outreach services together under one program instead of spreading it across five programs.

According to King County’s 2019 Count Us In data, 9% of people experiencing homelessness said family reunification services would enable them to obtain permanent housing. The same report found that nearly half of the county’s homeless residents had lived in King County for less than four years.

Busing people experiencing homelessness out of cities is not a new idea. King County has pointed to the success of homeward bound programs in other cities like Portland, San Francisco, New York City, Berkeley, New Orleans, West Palm Beach, and Denver.

But recent reports reveal that the programs have mixed results, and in Portland, nearly half of the people who used the service had lost their promised housing within three months.