Seattle/ Politics & Govt
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Published on February 23, 2024
Seattle Shifts $11.7M in Homelessness Funding from Regional Authority to City ControlSource: Unsplash/ Jon Tyson

In a bold move signaling a shake-up in the fight against homelessness, the Seattle city government is yanking a chunk of funding from the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA). The city's Human Services Department (HSD) is set to directly manage contracts for outreach and homelessness prevention, approximating a carve-out of $11.7 million from the regional body's budget.

The decision to reclaim about 10% of the $109 million in annual funding comes after a year marked by intense scrutiny over the effectiveness of current homelessness strategies. City officials appear to be taking a step to more closely regulate the use of funds and directly lead efforts addressing upstream causes of homelessness. Seattle's HSD director, Tanya Kim, was keen to emphasize in an email, first highlighted by The Seattle Times, that this move was "in an effort to carefully examine how outreach investments align to the evolving needs of the city."

Mayor Bruce Harrell's administration described the shift as aligning with the city's role in leading on housing and community stability, while the KCRHA continues to spearhead emergency homelessness responses. The funds will begin being directed back to the city later this year, with the transition extending into 2025, according to the information shared by Kim.

But this act of reeling back funding has not come without its detractors. Critics argue it threatens to fracture an already complex service system. Alison Eisinger, director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, rebuked the decision, claiming it "fractures our homeless service system deeply and ill serves people who are homeless," as reported by Publicola. She continues to argue that separating outreach from the rest of the homelessness service system is counterproductive and undermines the broader goal of regional cooperation that Seattle officials have purportedly advocated for.

Amidst these tensions, the KCRHA has acknowledged its awareness of the city's decision and is actively working to gauge the impact this shift will have on nonprofit organizations, the homeless population, and the regional approach to tackling homelessness. The unfolding drama raises national questions about the viability of Seattle's commitment to a cohesive strategy on homelessness, as noted by KOMO News. Elected leaders have been tight-lipped following the leak of the pivotal letter, hesitating to comment on what appears to be a strategic realignment with deeper implications for the battle against homelessness in the region.