Special Council Meeting Regarding Homeless Service Providers in Federal Way
At a Federal Way city council special meeting on August 9th, 2022, Federal Way and King County service providers gave a presentation regarding services. They are listed below with links to their websites. Here’s the video. https://youtu.be/hUuGpg5k3YQ
The King County Regional Homelessness Authority and their partner We Are In hosted a South King County Town Hall on 8/24/22 to talk about how homelessness shows up differently around the county. There was also a Town Hall for East King County on 8/17/22 and it would be worthwhile to see how homelessness looks different there, especially as King County implements their housing plans.
Leo Flores talked about Health Through Housing. King County purchased the Extended Stay in Federal Way for this purpose. Leo said this service will provide stabilizing crisis care, substance use disorder treatment, employment, “nursing stations”, mental health services, and counseling for housing beyond permanent supportive housing when possible. There will be studies on the timeline of health through housing to self-reliance. Some who move into the extended stay will never leave. About 10% will likely leave in the first year. Single adults and couples are allowed but no children.
Per Leo, 65% will be from our city. The city of Federal Way gets new homeless via bus routes and by drop off with new faces every day according to people who volunteer and work in the field, so we know that number is somewhat arbitrary but better than the original 15 percent. Intake will occur within King County. Outreach will occur via a locally coordinated entry system with transition through a series of interventions first to acclimate coming inside. King County is currently looking for multiple RV lots around the county perhaps as one part of the system.
An email has been sent to Pete Von Reichbauer with concerns and we are waiting for a response. All too often the equity that is applied to individuals who are down on their luck takes place in the south end of the county where east king county doesn’t have to experience the impact nearly as much. As a result, King County is setting up two classes of untouchables, those who do not have to follow the norms and rules of society and another class that lives in a bubble free from the impacts.
According to Leo, residents will be asked to leave if they do not comply with codes of conduct that are signed off by the tenant. He said there will be no drug use allowed in the building, but they will not require abstinence from drugs. They will seek to expose to treatment whenever possible. We know that drug addiction is considered a disability not to be discriminated against which limits expectations on those who are addicted and housed. We also know that our mayor and police chief have said that there is a de- facto legalization of all drugs. King County will likely offer medical assisted treatment since other treatment options are not as readily available.
It was asked why Urban League was selected rather than a local service provider since they have never been an active entity here. According to Leo, they are limited to who applies to a Request For Proposal. They choose who they know and who has experience. Catholic Community Services will work with Urban League since this is new to them. According to Leo, there is more cultural relevance with Urban League. He stated they must also reduce racial disproportionality and account for the geographic community, and as Leo said before, they match communities. Jack Walsh stated his observation that a majority of the homeless in the streets of Federal Way are not African American. There was a discussion awhile back in the Federal Way Community Facebook group that relates to this. https://m.facebook.com/groups/FWCommunityWatch/permalink/1415676918613472/
According to Leo, you can use drugs in an apartment and there are a range of responses to drug use, and we would expect the same pattern with Health Through Housing. So, he circled back to saying that drug use is allowed. They will have to get the drugs from somewhere so the deals will likely take place in a nearby parking lot. There are standards to be asked to leave. The criteria for removal from the Extended Stay is endangering other residents or themselves (what’s the threshold), setting fire and the sale and distribution of drugs for example. They monitor behavior and watch for patterns of improvement.
At National Night Out, Uptown Square residents were very concerned. King County said they would be happy to talk to them. There is no active plan to do so. When proximity to school was brought up, Leo cited other Health Through Housing is near schools. He said, in fact, that the court dismissed Kirkland’s lawsuit but he didn’t say on what basis.
Erica Norton talked about her experience cleaning 6 different permanent supportive housing hotels via her cleaning business. She said they must get police protection while they are cleaning. She has pictures and videos. She asked how the city will be reimbursed for services. She informed him that we are already thin with law enforcement, and they are creating an additional hotspot in our city, especially for people that live there. She has been informed by those on the inside that a lot of counselors and other staff just sit around in offices and don’t do anything.
She asked for security at the Extended Stay for what will essentially be trap houses. She wanted to know if we needed to create an ordinance. Leo said he is willing to have a conversation about security. Erica mentioned the William J Wood Veterans building run by the multi service center and Leo said that was not a good comparison because it isn’t part of the King County health through housing portfolio. Erica reminded him that he used Multi Service Center Veterans building as a Hallmark Ad at his last visit.
The Health Through Housing portfolio has a higher level of funding but there are staffing shortages. One way to address this is the reduce the use of services by utilizing congregate vs outside. Leo mentioned that they were able to reduce use of local fire department services when Afghan refugees were staying at the hotel. At the time, there were a lot of calls due to microwave use. Residents did not know how to use microwaves and there were fire issues. So, they got all the residents together and provided information for prevention. This reduced services.
Lydia asked if there would be a point where Federal Way will need to start budgeting for services. The county could act to rescind the tax, but they are currently inflating the costs to ensure revenue and do not think it will be an issue. She suggested that the county have regular meetings with the city council, but she thinks there should be police present at the meeting (to protect against the angry public). She thinks we will stop talking about shopping carts and bus stops once this program gets going. Lydia likes that King County pays for everything.
Catholic Community Services
Bill Holloman said The Federal Day Center was recently expanded. There is a team of 5 people within South King County who go to camps and the day center and shelter and connect people with services. They work with the Federal Way police department. He provided some statistics about the day center. They see lots of families with behavioral health needs. They also have a new contract this fall with University of Washington medical. Public health nurses and doctors will come to Federal Way two days per week.
He talked about shelter services in South King County. Reach Out previously provided overnight stay in churches around Federal Way, Kent and Renton. The shelter services were impacted by the recent pandemic, so they moved the shelter services to SeaTac. King County purchased the Red Lion in Federal Way near 348th. The Red Lion will operate like King County Health Through Housing according to Bill Holloman.
Red Lion will house 85 single adults and couples with no children 24/7. This will be low barrier like the Extended Stay, will provide opportunities to build relationships, provide case management and will provide a full meal plan. They will have access via the day center. They are looking forward to working with the Urban League at the Extended Stay.
Robin Corak was the most trusted presenter because she was honest about the shortcomings and challenges. She talked in detail about the populations, challenges, and solutions. One challenge is that there is not enough drug treatment available when someone is ready to get help. Another challenge according to Robin is tenant landlord laws. They can’t just ask a tenant to leave if they have illegal substances.
Multiservice center provides rental assistance. They have seen delayed impacts from the pandemic. Some are just now seeking services having never needed services before.
Robin provided stats on who is served there. At William J Wood, they installed a gate, security cameras, 24-hour staffing, guest check-in at front desk. She said it’s not perfect and has its issues. They no longer have security because security didn’t build relationships or get to know tenants, and this added challenges.
David Harrison said Fusion has 20 homes in Federal Way and a furniture boutique, a 31-room motel, Poverty Bay Café for job skills like Fair Start. They focus on self-sufficiency with the idea that homelessness should be rare, brief and one time. They do have to kick people out at times. They will help if they see that there is a good fit and if the person accepts reasonable assistance. They do not want to turn people out to homelessness. They have security staff, cameras 24/7 no visitors are allowed, no alcohol or drugs are allowed, or they are asked to leave.
They are starting to see homelessness across generations. They see that there is mostly a needed investment in mental health. David provided stats as well. They have been able to reduce the length of stay from 100 days to 60 by adding more case management capacity to serve more families. They are seeing an overwhelming request for services. Families are living in their cars with babies.
King County Regional Homeless Authority (KCRHA)
Alexis Rink introduced Abby who is a recent University of Washington graduate and will be our new South King County planner. Alexis talked about KCRHA. In 2018 the homeless response system was fragmented. There was an internal agreement signed between Seattle and King County. She said that hopefully in 2022-23 we will start seeing a difference.
The plan is to defragment through this regional homelessness authority. As we are seeing here in Federal Way, this allows more segregation of populations through control and triage (Urban League).
The role of KCRHA is oversight on policy and care management, HUD funding, ombuds office for “select” oversite, housing capital and development (more government control of who lives where), diversion, rapid rehousing, coordinated entry for all (health through housing), metrics and milestones established (set by the customers), shelter, management, and information system (called hmis). They have a community impact team. They do technical assistance for community capacity.
One good thing coming out of this regional authority might be some good detailed data despite the question of accuracy of reporting. KCRHA prides themselves in leading the way in providing housing vouchers and their goal is to simply get people housed. A large majority of the employees have lived experience as previously homeless. They refer to those being housed as their customers. If their goal is to simply get people housed, who provides the regional oversight or authority on accountability to those who are significantly negatively impacting on communities whether housed or not.
They do not do homeless encampment cleanups. Emergency housing vouchers have been a huge success. She provided some stats about SKC.