This morning, the City Council had another hearing to discuss the proposed regional governance structure to respond to the homelessness crisis that was developed by representatives of Seattle and King County.
While nothing was decided this morning, it’s becoming clearer where the areas of concern are for the Council — and for other stakeholders, including some who got a chance to provide their own feedback in the hearing.
- Everyone wants to be on the Governing Board. Now that it’s becoming clear that the seat of power will be the Governing Board of the new entity, stakeholders are jockeying for seats. Melinda Giovengo, the CEO of YouthCare, argued that the organizational structure as proposed is optimized around delivering services to adults (as defined by HUD) and doesn’t recognize the distinct needs of homeless youth — thus someone with expertise in youth homelessness should be on the Governing Board. Alison Eisinger of the Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness, representing service providers, sent an email arguing that service providers should be represented there. Lisa Daugaard, Director of the Public Defender Association echoed that sentiment in her own letter, and also argued that there needs to be a “channel” into the governance process “that will elevate public safety and public order considerations.” Giovengo also argued for service providers to be represented on the governing board, and suggested that while there was a conflict of interest, the representative(s) would recuse themselves when required. Council member Herbold generalized the problem of representation on the governing board, noting that there was a need to have organizations representing several different demographics on the governing board. While the current definition of the board’s membership includes positions to represent people experiencing homelessness, it provides no specifics about which sub-populations they should draw from — and the are many more sub-populations than there are positions on the governing board.
- Timing issues. Council members wanted to know when the consolidated organization could be brought together into a single location in a space provided by King County. HSD Director Jason Johnson explained that December and January are heavy workload months for humans services staff, but that the tentative plan was to move the grops together by the end of the first quarter of 2020.
- The Executive Director. The Council members also inquired about the timing and process for hiring the executive director. Johnson noted that the governing board needed to be seated first since it would ultimately be selecting the executive director, but that the plan was to outsource the search process to an executive search firm. Council member Bagshaw expressed her preference for hiring someone with deep local knowledge, though Council President Harrell noted that there would be legal issues if they built in that kind of preference into the qualifications for the position.
- Workforce issues. A representative for SEIU 1199 reminded the Council that most human services provider employees are paid very poorly without regard to the skills and experience needed to do the jobs, and argued that the system cannot be expanded until those “structural inequalities in the workforce” were addressed. Consultant Marc Dones reiterated that point, saying, “we can’t run a program that is predatory while we are trying to help people.”
- The fate of the Navigation Team. Under the current proposal, the Navigation Team would stay with the City of Seattle rather than move over to the new governance structure. However Council member Mosqueda, who is no fan of the Navigation Team, argued that the city should consider repurposing the team’s $7.5 million budget for other purposes.
- The split between housing and services. Under the proposed plan, investments in housing would stay with the city and county, but services related to those housing investments would move to the new organization. Specifically, the City of Seattle would continue to build and own permanent supportive housing (PSH) projects, but the new regional governance organization would provide the ongoing services onsite. This raised concerns that the split could make the city’s grant proposals less attractive to funding agencies, and could risk creating a disconnect between the parallel, linked efforts.
- The connection with public safety and criminal justice. Daugaard points out in her letter that the recent discussions of “prolific offenders” highlight the high percentage of that population who are currently homeless or have experienced it, and yet there is little in the governance proposal that connects the new organization (and its governance) to the criminal justice system and the various interventions designed to stop homeless people from cycling through it.
You can watch this morning’s discussion on Seattle Channel, and view the presentation slides here.
As the Council puts aside other work to dive into the 2020 budget next week, there is currently no next meeting scheduled for the committee to tak up the proposal again. Since there are budget implications to the regional governance proposal, the Council may make an exception to its rules to schedule additional hearings in October and November. If they don’t, it may be difficult to get the new governance structure approved before the end of the year.
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