Durkan and Constantine announce proposal for regional homeless response agency

This morning, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that they have jointly submitted a long-awaited proposal for a regional governance structure for responding to the homelessness crisis.

The proposal, as detailed in a proposed Interlocal Agreement and a Charter for the new organization, lays out the services that will be consolidated into the new authority, the governing bodies that will oversee it, and the initial funding.

The new King County Regional Homeless Authority will be a public development authority (PDA), a “public corporation” distinct from the City and County with the authority to receive funds from public and private entitites. It will be structured as a provider of services back to Seattle, King County, and any additional cities or towns that join up at a future point in time (currently it’s just the two). To that end, nearly all the services related to homelessness that Seattle and King County currently provide will be transferred over to the new authority, including:

  • outreach;
  • diversion;
  • homeless shelters;
  • rapid rehousing;
  • transitional housing;
  • operation and case management of permanent supportive housing;
  • most prevention efforts.

In addition, it is expected that All Home, the separate public organization that is the designated regional recipient of HUD funding for homelessness, will also be consolidated into the new authority once its board approves. That will include its Continuum of Care responsibilities to HUD, the Coordinated Entry for All system, and the HMIS database that it runs on behalf of the city, county, and service providers. King County will provide facilities for the new organization.

In return, the new authority will sign service agreements with Seattle and King County for the services it will provide in their respective jurisdictions.

Two areas of responsibility related to homelessness will not move over:

  • capital investments related to housing, including both permanent supportive housing and other affordable housing projects;
  • the city’s Navigation Team.

The new authority will also create a new Office of the Ombud as a means for people experiencing homelessness to raise issues with access to services.

The authority will have an Executive Director as its chief executive, reporting to an 11-member Governing Board that serves as the “Board of Directors” for the public corporation. The members of the Governing Board will be accountable to an eight-person Steering Committee mostly consisting of elected officials:

  • the King County Executive;
  • one King County Council member;
  • the Mayor of Seattle;
  • one Seattle City Council members;
  • one elected official from another city that has signed an interlocal agreement with the authority, or if none have, then an officer of the Board of Directors of the Sound Cities Association;
  • once twenty or more cities have joined up with the authority, then another elected official from a city other than Seattle;
  • two people with lived experience of homelessness, who  “shall be appointed by a continuum of care-created committee, group, or task force made up primarily of persons who have experienced homelessness.”

The Steering Committee confirms and removes governing board members, confirms without amendment the five-year plan for the authority, reviews an annual performance report from the Governing Board, and confirms without amendment the annual budget.

The Governing Board is responsible for hiring, firing, and conducting performance reviews of the Executive Director, and for general oversight of the organization in line with general expectations for a board of directors — including approval of general policies, the annual budget, major financial transactions, and the Five-year Plan. It is also empowered to created an advisory board of people with relevant subject matter expertise.

The initial members of the Governing Board are appointed thusly during the organization’s first five years:

  • two by the King County Executive;
  • two by the King County Council;
  • two by the Mayor of Seattle;
  • two by the Seattle City Council;
  • three by the two members of the Steering Committee with lived experience of homelessness.

After five years have passed, the Governing Board nominates its own members as terms expire, subject to confirmation by the Steering Committee. Three of the eleven will be based on recommendations from a separate committee of people with lived experience of homelessness.

Terms on the Governing Board are generally four years, but the initially appointed members are for a mix of three, four, and five years terms so that in the future they aren’t all replaced simultaneously.  Governing board members are limited to two successive complete terms.

Here’s what the Charter says about who should be appointed to serve on the Governing Board:

The Governing Board shall be comprised of individuals who have connections to or experience with a broad range of stakeholders and communities, including but not limited to: the local business community; neighborhood and community associations; faith/religious groups; and the philanthropic community. A majority of the members of the Governing Board shall be persons whose combination of identity, personal experience, or professional expertise enables them to credibly represent the perspectives of, and be accountable to, marginalized demographic populations that are statistically disproportionately represented among people experiencing homelessness in King County. The Governing Board members shall strive to reflect a diversity of geographies in King County.

The Governing Board shall not include elected officials or employees of Seattle, the County, the Authority, or any Additional Party, nor employees, officials, agents or representatives of current contract holders or any entity that is likely to directly benefit from the actions of the Authority.

The authority is expected to develop an “initial work plan” within its first six months, and a Five-year Plan within its first 18 months. While the hope is that Seattle and King County will approve the Interlocal Agreement and Charter for the new organization before the end of the year, it won’t be ready to transfer over existing functions from the city and county until well into 2020. As such, the funding is structured such that both the city and county are budgeting for homeless services in 2020 as they have in the past, but committing to move that funding over to the new authority mid-year, pro-rated to cover the remainder of the year when the transfer happens. In addition, both Seattle and King County are committing to provide start-up funds for the new authority. In total, the funds being committed are:

  • King County: up to $1.8 million for startup;
  • Seattle: up to $2 million for startup;
  • King County: up to $55 million for services and administration;
  • Seattle: up to $73 million for services and administration.

Included in those figures are $42 million of federal HUD funds.

Some other logistical notes on the proposed agreement:

  • Other cities may join the authority, with the approval of the Mayor of Seattle and the King County Executive.
  • Participation in the authority is on a year-to-year basis with annual renewals, though neither Seattle nor King County may withdraw in the first five years.
  • According to the Charter, the authority is not granted direct powers to levy taxes, but it may “Recommend to the United States, a state, and any political subdivision or agency of any of them, such tax, financing, and security measures as the Authority may deem appropriate to maximize the public interest in the County.”
  •  Unlike most Public Development Authorities, the authority will not be granted the power to issue bonds or other negotiable notes, though it may borrow money from other public entities.
  • King County will serve as the treasury for the new authority.

Here are the key documents to create the new authority that the City Council and the King County must approve:

Interlocal Agreement

Charter for the King County Regional Homeless Authority

King County ordinance

Seattle ordinance

According to the press release issued by Durkan and Constantine today, they hope to have the councils approve the new authority by December through their normal deliberative process. Once that is in place, the Steering Committee will be formed, it will appoint the Governing Board, and the Governing Board will in turn hire an Executive Director to build out the organization.

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