1. The King County Regional Homelessness Authority’s implementation board, which has the power to amend and approve or reject the agency’s budgets, unanimously signed off on a budget proposal that would nearly double the size of the agency on Tuesday.
The additional $90 million, which would come from a combination of the Seattle and King County budgets, would pay for 400 new shelter and emergency housing beds, raises for social service workers, day centers, and safe spots for people living in vehicles, among other new expenditures. Most of the new beds (345) would be emergency housing, which a presentation by the authority described as “a dignified place for people to wait for permanent housing.”
The unanimous vote means that after the budget is approved by the agency’s governing board—a group made up mostly of elected officials that is charged with approving the implementation board’s decision—it will be up to city and county elected officials to decide whether to fully fund the request or eliminate some items, as the city did last year.
“This isn’t necessarily what we should expect to see come back to us,” KCRHA CEO Marc Dones told the board on Tuesday. “This budget will be taken up and looked at in relationship to all of the funding priorities that the city and county have.”
For the first time on Tuesday, Dones offered a three-tiered prioritization of the agency’s new funding requests, which could guide city and county officials when they’re deciding what to fund. At the top: Safe parking spaces for up to 130 vehicles ($5 million); an increase in nonprofit homeless service providers’ pay ($15.4 million); and a $1.5 million grant fund for organizations focused on “centering [the] lived experience” of people who have experienced homelessness firsthand.
In the second tier: $750,000 to expand severe-weather shelters; $7.2 million to hire more agency staff; and $20 million for a new “high-acuity shelter” serving up to 55 people with significant behavioral and physical health needs. These new shelter beds would be in addition to the 40-bed high-needs shelter King County is funding separately as part of its ever-expanding shelter complex in SoDo.
For the first time, Dones offered a three-tiered prioritization of the agency’s new funding requests. At the top: Safe parking spaces for up to 130 vehicles ($5 million); an increase in nonprofit homeless service providers’ pay ($15.4 million); and a $1.5 million grant fund for organizations focused on “centering [the] lived experience” of people who have experienced homelessness firsthand.
The rest of the budget adds, including $20 million for emergency housing, $15 million for daytime gathering spaces, and funding to assist smaller and BIPOC-led providers, are now in tier 3. The city and county will both get their own crack at the budget this fall; last year, the city council made significant cuts to the agency’s proposal, declining to fully fund the high-acuity shelter and asking Dones to come back with details about a “peer navigator” program that the agency subsequently launched using one-time private donations.
Dones has been a vocal advocate for “emergency housing”—a type of bridge housing between shelter and permanent housing that could include single-family houses, converted hotels, or —and a slide deck they presented at Tuesday’s meeting suggested that this housing type has an off-the-charts 95 percent rate of exits to permanent housing and 5 percent rate of return to homelessness, meaning that almost everyone who enters emergency housing is permanently housed and does not become homeless again. We have asked the KCRHA how it came up with these numbers and will update this post when we hear back.
2. Last week, Seattle Fire Department chief Harold Scoggins responded to a letter from members of the the city’s race and social justice network demanding action on hate crimes and racism inside the fire department after two incidents in which firefighters found nooses hanging in their stations. The initial letter asked Scoggins for regular updates on the investigation into the incidents; a restorative justice process for fire department staff; and the immediate termination of the people responsible for placing the nooses in the two fire stations, among other demands.
In his letter, Scoggins laid out a list of actions the department has taken over the past few years to train and educate staff about racial bias, including sessions on implicit bias, cultural competency, and microaggressions, but did not commit to any of the specific actions the RSJ teams demanded in their initial letter to the department.
“We are committed to pursuing the appropriate level of discipline depending on the outcome of an investigation,” Scoggins wrote, adding that the department had closed its investigation into the first noose incident, at Fire Station 17 in the University District because they “could not identify the responsible party.” The investigation into the more recent incident, at Fire Station 24 in North Seattle, is still ongoing, Scoggins wrote.