Regional governance structure for homeless response starting to take shape

According to a briefing delivered to the City Council yesterday, key questions are now starting to be answered in the long process of devising a regional governance structure for the response to the homelessness crisis.

Tess Colby, the Mayor’s go-to- person for all theings related to the process of establishing the regional governance structure, walked Council members through the recommendations coming out of the development process — which, in living up to the trademark “Seattle process,” has involved months of gathering input from all stakeholders both at the city and county level.

Council member Mosqueda, one of the Council members of the city’s “client group” tracking the process (the County Council has a parallel one), began the briefing by noting that no decisions had been made yet, but that recommendations were now surfacing. She stressed that officials were committed to “transformational change,” reductions in duplicative programs, streamlining services, and identifying the right metrics and indicators for determining success. “No one wants to move the deck chairs around,” she said.

Colby outlined the procedural steps that must be followed to stand up the new organizational structure. First, the city and county need to enter into an interlocal agreement (ILA) on their respective contributions to the new organization. Second, King County will pass a charter that does the legal work of establishing a new Public Development Authority as the basis of the new org. Once that is done, the City of Seattle, King County, and any other local jurisdictions that wish to join will sign ILA’s directly with the new PDA.

Colby outlined the key aspects of the ILA between the city and county:

  • It will determine the structure of the governing board that, like a non-profit, will have oversight, policy guidance and fiduciary responsibilities for the PDA. This turns out to be complicated, because state law prohibits public officials from simultaneously holding two positions where one is subservient to the other (as the PDA would be to the city and county). So the governance structure will need to provide accountability to the local jurisdictions funding its work, even if the jurisdictions’ own officials can’t serve on the governing board itself. It will also need to manage the tricky process of serving multiple masters. The team working on the proposal recently presented a proposed governance structure to the All Home board, as seen below:
  • It will establish a separate structure and membership attributes for an advisory board, that will allow the PDA to benefit from the experience of stakeholders without creating conflicts of interests — for example, it would present a conflict if a representative from a human services provider that receives funding from the PDA sat on the governing board.
  • It will establish the existing contracts that will be moved over, and the accompanying administrative functions.
  • It will set out the parameters for baseline staffing and resources for the new organization, including the number of staff that will move over from the existing city and county departments. That includes people to staff baseline administrative functions such as HR and IT, as well as managing existing contracts that will move over.
  • It will commit the city and county to the baseline budget funding, for administrative functions and existing contracts.
  • It will establish where the organization will be located, and the steps to stand it up.

The city and county have come to a tentative agreement (pending approval of their respective legislative arms) on the existing functions that will transfer over, and those that will remain in the existing departments:

  • The “homeless crisis management” functions will transfer over, including prevention and diversion programs, support services, and services attached to permanent supportive housing. Outreach and engagement programs will also move over, as will day and hygiene centers, shelters and tiny villages, homeless nutrition programs, transitional housing, and rapid rehousing.
  • “Continuum of Care” functions will transfer over, including responsibility for the annual “Point in Time” count, the Coordinated Entry and HMIS systems, community engagement, and training programs.
  • “Upstream” prevention programs that are essentially “anti-poverty” programs such as food banks will not transfer over.
  • ¬†Permanent Supportive Housing programs will be split: the capital and finance programs¬† related to building new PSH will stay put, as will operations and maintenance, but the services associated with PSH facilities (case management, mental health services, etc.) will move over to the new organization.
  • The city’s Navigation Team will not move over, though the outreach portion may be provided by the new organization. The rationale is that the Navigation Team is a multi-department effort involving SPD, SPU, SDOT and other city departments, that would be more difficult to manage outside city government. However, Mosqueda voiced concern over this recommendation, and may push for reconsideration. The Navigation Team is under increased scrutiny from the Council, as its recent efforts have shifted away from 72-hour encampment cleanups toward a focus on immediate cleanup of encampments causing obstructions — which has in turn decreased the amount of outreach the team is conducting.

In parallel, a Regional Action Plan is being formulated by CSH, a non-profit organization. That, too, is deep in the “Seattle process” of gathering extensive input from all stakeholders. The RAP is intended to lay out short-, medium- and long-term goals, milestones and metrics for the new organization around “action-oriented solutions.” It is also expected to identify who is accountable for meeting the goals, milestones and metrics, and to provide recommendations on sequencing of the goals. The team developing the RAP is also working on cost estimates, which should inform the negotiations on the initial budget for the new organization.

According to the timeline (which according to Colby and Mosqueda is still somewhat in flux), the “client group” of Council members will receive the draft ILA, charter, HR plan, and RAP over the next three weeks, with a potential ordinance adopting them as early as mid-September. This runs up against the start of the Council’s fall budget process, though it will be critical for the decisions to be made before then so as to inform next year’s budget.

Council member Bagshaw ended the briefing by reminded everyone why this is now being pursued on an “expedited” schedule: because she and several of her colleagues leave the Council at the end of the year; they want to see it move forward — and not risk losing momentum in the transition to a new Council with perhaps different priorities.

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One thought on “Regional governance structure for homeless response starting to take shape”

  1. What an unbelievable joke! How much are we spending on the “regional governance structure” – and what’s the degree of relief this dinosaur is going to provide? Lots and almost zero. Aside from the fact that it’s taken two years for it “starting to take shape” – what decade will it emerge ready to actually do something?

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