After more than year, Seattle region has first head of homelessness authority

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After more than year, Seattle region has first head of homelessness authority

Elected leaders and people homeless from Seattle and its suburbs voted Thursday to elect the region’s first leader in responding to homelessness in the region.

This is an important step in building the Regional Homelessness Authority, which is designed to decipher and depoliticize King County’s messy homeless response that has never had a clear decision maker.

The agency’s board of directors offered the position to Marc Dones, an Ohio-based political strategist and activist. Dones accepted the position on Thursday and will officially begin on April 26th.

Dones, 35, is a social entrepreneur and perhaps an unconventional choice: while they helped shape authority, they come more from the world of racial justice and activism than from direct homelessness services.

One of their greatest roles will be to bring Seattle, King County and suburban cities together into a coherent strategy to tackle homelessness across the region. Tensions between these groups have already delayed the implementation of authority.

The pandemic also delayed the schedule for the election of a CEO by six months, and then the first person to offer the job – a racist stocks advisor from Atlanta – turned it down. Dones was originally runner-up.

Dones has campaigned locally to help people affected by homelessness have more control over how the country responds to the growing crisis and has criticized the nonprofits that local governments are contracting with to serve people directly help.

“Government is just what we agree on together,” Dones said in an interview on Thursday. “I feel like we have a chance to get some things right and build and run a system that really focuses on the right things and listens to everyone, rather than the traditional bureaucratic mode of knowing what we know best for you all. ‘That’s not my approach. “

People working behind the scenes informally refer to the Dones as “the architect” of the regional homelessness agency, according to Nate Caminos, the agency’s co-chair of the agency’s implementation committee who led the hiring process.

Although the vote was unanimous, Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus said she had reservations about the election; others alluded to the fact that suburban towns may not be that open to Done’s approach to begin with.

“I have not always agreed with Marc Dones on all points, but this is not a place where everyone has to agree,” said Jenny Durkan, Seattle mayor. “(Dones) is very dedicated to hearing all voices.”

Harold Odom, who lives in a tiny house village in Georgetown and co-chairs the implementation committee that recommended Dones last week, said he and Dones didn’t get along when they first met two years ago. But after working with Dones to create authority, Odom believes Dones “is a person of change. Not someone doing the standard blowout because that’s what we had before and nothing has gotten better. “

Dones worked his way up from a data and policy analyst for the state of Massachusetts and helped design and implement a $ 10 million per year program to reduce youth violence for the then government. Deval Patrick. Since then, Dones has worked primarily advising companies like the Center for Social Innovation and The Future Company before starting his own company, the National Innovation Service.

The Regional Homelessness Authority is the culmination of more than three years of planning to bring Seattle, its many nonprofits, and the suburbs on the same page when it comes to homelessness. Previous iterations of a regional body – the Homelessness Ending Committee, which was disbanded and replaced by All Home, which was disbanded last year and replaced by the agency – had no real power over budgets and policy-making.

The government will also encourage suburban cities, according to Seattle leaders, to fund more housing and low-income or supportive housing for the chronically homeless, or at least allow what is disproportionately funded by the city, although many homeless people in Seattle have become homeless elsewhere, data shows . Seattle provided $ 75 million of the $ 132 million budget to create the agency.

“Our failure has been that fear of going too far has kept us from going far enough since 2001,” said Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett, who heads the Interfaith Homelessness Task Force, during a public commentary on the election Leaders. “All of you in this county must all be there.”