Leaders plan new oversight authority to handle homeless crisis across King County

SEATTLE -- It’s the first of its kind in Western Washington – a plan to build a region-wide response to combating homelessness.

The ‘King County Regional Homelessness Authority’ was unveiled Wednesday by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine.

The idea is to tackle related issues as a region, rather than relying on duplicated services.

The authority will comprise an 11-member board who will help guide how to spend more than $120 million to help bring people experiencing homelessness a way off the streets.

The authority also intends to streamline and establish clear ways to measure success and ensure public dollars are spent with accountability and transparency. And begin oversight of overnight shelters and outreach.

“Including emergency response services that consists of shelter, case management, of outreach and engagement, of diversion and prevention,” said Constantine.

But County Councilmember Reagan Dunn believes handing operational and financial oversite to 11 unelected board members ignores other ideas where he says other cities have found success.

“We need to stop taking this money into what is feel-good programs designed to make our homeless more comfortable and put them into things that are arguably tough love,” said Dunn.

While the new authority would be deciding how to spend money on mental and substance abuse treatment – it won’t be spending money for permanent housing options.

Now it’s up to both city and county councils to fine-tune their agreement – with a goal of final approval by the end of the year.