At a Salvation Army shelter, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine signed an agreement pledging to align their homelessness funding process.
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At a Salvation Army shelter, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine signed an agreement pledging to align their homelessness funding process.
Credit: KUOW/Amy Radil

After critical report, King County and Seattle pledge to streamline homelessness services

A King County audit criticized local efforts to fight homelessness as fragmented this week, saying no single entity has enough decision-making power to make an impact. Against that backdrop, Seattle and King County officials are now promising to streamline how they deliver homelessness services.

The new audit said King County and its cities lack a formal, binding process to align funding decisions. Speaking at a men’s shelter in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood, King County Executive Dow Constantine said a new memorandum between the county and Seattle will a more coordinated approach.

“The agreement we’re signing today takes on issues of governance," Constantine said. "It improves coordination, first between King county and the City of Seattle, and then on a more regional scale.”

The audit is the latest in a series of studies — they’ve all pointed to the same weaknesses in the funding structure and said that structure hinders the government’s response to homelessness.

Lawry Smith, coordinates the Salvation Army’s social services in Seattle, said she’s cautiously optimistic that something will change this time.

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"We have city contracts and county contracts," Smith said. "And so, if I’m understanding it correctly, if it’s all going to come through one pipeline, that certainly is going to make it easier for us.”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan faced repeated questions on whether she supports the proposed “employee hours tax” to generate more funding for homelessness services.

“It’s not a yes or no question," she said. "We know we need more resources to address what’s happening on the streets. But at the same time we also know there’s a whole list of issues with this proposal.”

Durkan said that for her, those issues include how long the tax would last and who would be accountable for the spending.

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