Seattle, King County to use ‘housing first’ approach to tackle homelessness | Washington

(The Center Square) – A housing command center is now fully operational in Seattle’s Emergency Operations Center and is tasked with using a housing first approach to end homelessness.

The center is run by the King County Regional Homelessness Authority with collaboration from organizations like We Are In and the Lived Experience Coalition.

The authority says the center acts as a centralized emergency operations management system that coordinates actions required to house people. The idea is that a command center takes the best practices learned from years of emergency response to disasters like floods, fires and other major displacements, and applies them to homelessness.

According to the authority, the command center has authority to coordinate emergency responses. This is modeled after the federal government’s response to natural disasters.

The authority sees the housing command center as the backbone of the Partnership for Zero, a collaboration of city officials to find solutions to homelessness. The initial focus for Partnership for Zero is in Downtown Seattle and the Chinatown International District. Seattle’s Emergency Operations Center is located in the heart of the Chinatown District.

“This area represents the largest concentration of people experiencing homelessness in King County,” Felicia Salcedo, the executive director of We Are In, said at a press conference Wednesday. “Additionally, it also represents one of the largest concentrations in the nation.”

The housing command center has what is called a “housing first” approach, by identifying permanent housing units and eligible households. It then matches the households to the housing units.

Homeless peoples’ needs are then assessed and added to a list and then the housing command center matches people with housing and services in an ongoing process based on available resources.

Marc Dones, the CEO of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority said the command center has already identified over 300 units of available housing and to date has engaged with over 650 people in need.

“Homelessness is a housing problem – and so connecting with people [and] building relationships is the infrastructure to help get folks inside,” Dones said. “But the thing that you need to get people inside is housing.”

Dones added that the command center will continue to push until it has close to 1,000 units of available housing so that there is a buffer in case a surge in homeless people occurs.

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