The Regional Homelessness Authority was created by agreement in December 2019. Pictured: King County Executive Dow Constantine shakes hands with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. Courtesy photo

The Regional Homelessness Authority was created by agreement in December 2019. Pictured: King County Executive Dow Constantine shakes hands with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. Courtesy photo

Regional homelessness authority takes first step amid COVID-19

The authority held its first meeting on Thursday.

The first meeting of a new homelessness authority designed to bridge service gaps between various agencies in King County was largely spent on formalities, but some latent tensions began to appear.

The Regional Homelessness Authority was created by agreement last December. It’s designed to consolidate homelessness services between the county, Seattle and cities in the region. On May 21, the guiding committee — which will help create the rest of the agency — met for the first time.

While much of the meeting was a formal meet-and-greet and schedule setting affair, there was a disagreement between members on who should be elected co-chair. King County Councilmember Joe McDermott nominated King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan and Renton City Councilmember Ed Prince.

Three members of the committee have lived experience with homelessness, including Jonathan Hemphill, who stated at least one of the co-chairs should have first-hand knowledge of homelessness. He was supported by the other two members with lived experience, as well as Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez.

“[It] would send a very strong signal that we are indeed serious about taking a different approach,” Gonzalez said.

During debates on whether Seattle should approve the agency agreement in December, Gonzalez was worried about politics taking hold in the process. At Thursday’s meeting, she expressed concerns about all the chairs being elected officials.

The 12-person guiding committee seats are split evenly between representatives from Seattle, the county, other cities in the region and those with lived experience.

The selection of co-chairs was tabled until the June meeting. Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus said if all of the other three groups had chairs, then those representing Sound Cities Association cities should also have a chair position.

The committee will be holding meetings every third Thursday of the month. They will be working to create an implementation board to help establish the agency. The two groups will then search for and select a CEO by October.

Once it’s stablished, the regional homelessness authority will consolidate emergency response resources, budgets, planning and staff into a single entity. It is an intergovernmental agency instead of a public authority.

During the agreement’s drafting, suburban cities said they didn’t have enough representation. Homelessness aid organizations said the same of those with lived experience.

However, fragmentation in the response to homelessness between different government agencies has created a barrier to addressing the problem effectively. If the agency is successful, it will be able to let the various groups hash out their differences and find solutions to the persistent problem of people ending up on the streets.

It’s being funded by $73 million annually from Seattle, and another $55 million from King County.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

Should state cover school bus costs if there are no riders?

With funding tied to getting students to school, districts are uncertain how much money they’ll receive.

Pexel Images
Two patients contracted COVID-19 while at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland

A press release from the hospital states it has contacted 100 employees that had various levels of exposure, and that the direct source in this case is unclear

Kirkland PD car. File photo
One dead in shooting at Houghton Beach Park

The park is partially closed Thursday for the shooting investigation

Virtual town halls coming up for unincorporated King County

Events throughout September and October via Zoom will cater to different areas of the region.

A view of the Palmer Fire, located seven miles southwest of Oroville in north central Washington. Source: InciWeb
Antifa isn’t starting Washington wildfires

Online conspiracy theories are spreading as the West Coast burns.

A plane drops fire retardant on the Palmer Mountain Fire last week. The fire is listed as 84 percent contained, and fully lined. Laura Knowlton/Sound Publishing staff photo
Threat multiplier: How climate change, coronavirus and weather are scorching WA

Dry summer conspired with the pandemic and a wind storm.

Amazon adds more office space to Bellevue, now as many new jobs as HQ2

The office space for an additional 10,000 jobs, making it 25,000 coming to downtown, is expected to complete in 2023.

Constantine announces King County climate action plan

Plots an example of decreased stormwater pollution, urban flooding prevention, immigrant connections

The YMCA of Greater Seattle opened its King County branches to provide child care centers dedicated to serving the families of essential workers. Courtesy photo
COVID continues to whittle away at child care in Washington

It’s estimated that 25% of Washington child care facilities have closed since the pandemic began.

Ferguson sues agencies over archive relocation decision

“Decision to close the National Archives in Seattle has far-reaching impacts across the Northwest.”

Downtown Kirkland. Staff photo/Blake Peterson
COVID-19 relief grants available for small Kirkland businesses

The application will be available until Sept. 16.

Bothell schools receive grants for socially-distanced physical education

Cedar Wood Elementary and Maywood Hills Elementary were among the recipients