1. The new King County Regional Homelessness Authority won’t choose a director until mid-January, pushing back the timeline for the new authority to get up and running into next spring, according to a document posted to the authority’s website on Thursday.
Under the original timeline, the CEO would have been hired in September The timeline has been pushed back repeatedly as the county hired an executive search firm, the California-based Hawkins Company.
Delaying the hiring process, and thus the timeline to hire staff and stand up the authority, has impacts on other agencies, such as Seattle’s homelessness division. That division is supposed to sunset when the authority is up and running, and its staff are not guaranteed jobs in the new authority. One result is that HSI is increasingly short-staffed, which makes it harder for the city to get contracts (and money to providers) out the door.
This may seem in the weeds, but the worst-case scenario is that the city will be unable to get money to nonprofit service, shelter, and housing providers, who would then be unable to provide those services.
Will that happen? Who knows. But right now the remaining staff are working under major uncertainty, with moving timelines and little solid information about what things will look like in December, March, or next summer, when all contracts are supposed to transfer to the KCRHA.
2. This week, researchers at the University of Washington and King County DCHS confirmed what service providers like the Downtown Emergency Service Center have been reporting anecdotally for months: Opening hotels to people experiencing homelessness not only reduced the spread of COVID-19, it also contributed to residents’ feelings of stability, health, and well-being, reducing conflict between residents and leading to more exits to permanent housing than congregate shelters.
The preliminary findings come as the city of Seattle is finally considering hotels as an option for people living unsheltered; last week, deputy mayor Casey Sixkiller outlined a plan to lease up to 300 hundred hotel rooms for about 10 months. The goal of the city’s program will be moving people rapidly out of the hotels and into housing, either through referrals to “rapid rehousing” in the private market or to one of the 600 permanent supportive housing units that will open over the coming year.
“Pay stations will no longer be on every block. For some spaces, the nearest pay station will be one block away.”
Last week, Sixkiller said the service provider at the largest county-funded hotel, the Downtown Emergency Service Center, lacked an “exit plan” for people living there, leading to long-term stays rather than quick turnover of rooms, as the city’s plan calls for. Asked for more details about how the city’s hotels will differ from those funded by the county, a mayoral spokeswoman said, “The City’s new plan moves unsheltered people from the street into a hotel unit.” (The county-funded hotels are occupied by people who moved from shelters, not the street.)
“Clients will receive housing navigation support upon entry to the hotel shelters with the clear objective of assisting people to move as quickly as possible into a housing, such as through the [rapid rehousing] program, diversion, or into [permanent,” the Durkan spokeswoman said. “This helps ensure the hotels can be used as effectively as possible to address unsheltered homelessness.”
3. If you drive, get ready to walk further to pay for parking. As a cost-saving measure in the 2021 budget, the Seattle Department of Transportation has proposed reducing the number of parking pay stations in the city by a third, from about 1,500 to around 1,000. (The city budget also cuts two meter reader positions, to reflect the fact that “the need for coin collection [at parking meters] has been reduced.”) The number of metered parking spaces—around 12,000—will stay the same.
The upshot, according to a spokeswoman for Durkan, is that “pay stations will no longer be on every block. For some spaces, the nearest pay station will be one block away. On paid blocks without pay stations, SDOT will add signs to indicate there is a nearby pay station option.”