Developing a Continuum of Homelessness Services to Close the Economic and Health Gaps Stemming from Covid-19

January 15, 2022

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FUSE Corps

In King County, the pandemic introduced new disparities into an already fragmented homelessness response system. Many people experiencing homelessness in King County have split into two camps: one where resources and services are now relatively rich and one which pulls residents into more extreme circumstances. To support operating a synchronized, regional, and culturally competent continuum of care, King County will partner with FUSE Corps for one year to support revamping the county’s services system into one that is responsive to the needs of all residents experiencing homelessness. 

This fellowship project begins on April 25, 2022, and ends on April 24, 2023. The fellowship begins with a multi-day virtual orientation the week of April 25, 2022. The selected Executive Fellow will begin their first day of providing services to the host agency on May 2, 2022.

PROJECT CONTEXT

Like other prosperous American counties, greater King County currently finds itself in the position of possessing both enormous amounts of wealth and staggering levels of homelessness. King County has enjoyed robust economic growth over the past decade, with both Amazon and Microsoft establishing headquarters in the region. However, this prosperity is also a leading cause of a homelessness problem of devastating proportions. Seattle and King County rank in the top three areas in the country in homelessness on a per-capita basis, with more than 22,000 households and nearly 4,500 public school students experiencing homelessness in 2018 alone. And, unfortunately, homelessness has only worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic. Visible homelessness has grown over the last year, with tents in Seattle’s urban center increasing by more than 50%. Moreover, Black and indigenous residents are disproportionately represented in the homeless population; one-quarter of people experiencing homelessness in King County are Black; and while American Indian and Alaskan Native people were 1% of the county population, they consisted of 15% of those experiencing homelessness.

The pandemic has also introduced new disparities into an already fragmented system. Many people experiencing homelessness in King County have split into two camps: one where resources are now relatively rich and one which pulls residents into more extreme circumstances. When the pandemic hit, entire shelters became inaccessible, and outreach programs were shuttered – except to residents already inside. Those that had access to shelters engaged more with service providers, reported feelings of increased safety and security, and had higher rates of exits to permanent housing. However, with bottlenecked shelters where people stayed longer, smaller capacity, and fear to come inside over catching Covid-19, homelessness services plummeted for those outside. Many people living outdoors are now entirely separated from the county’s homeless services system.

With this context in mind, King County has put a renewed emphasis on reducing homelessness, utilizing a flood of new federal resources to initiate several programs to bring people indoors. In mid-2021, the King County Executive declared an ambitious $100 million plan to bring 500 people off the street by year’s end and announced plans to buy hotels to turn into housing for 1,600 residents. This infusion of dedicated funds will pay for tiny homes, large-scale shelters, behavioral health services, and housing vouchers. And an estimated $40 million of it will go to a jobs program to employ 400 people. King County must operate a synchronized, regional, and culturally competent continuum of care to facilitate faster, more robust pathways out of homelessness.

King County will partner with FUSE Corps for one year to support revamping the county’s services system into one that is responsive to the needs of all residents experiencing homelessness. The FUSE Executive Fellow will review the impacts of Covid-19 on King County’s population of residents experiencing homelessness and make recommendations to create coordinated customer-centered services – especially for residents that were excluded from care during the pandemic. The Executive Fellow will then create a collaborative funding model that prioritizes customer need in service delivery. This work will support King County in creating long-term institutional alignment across systems serving people experiencing homelessness, addressing the newly created economic and health gaps from Covid to ultimately drive the county towards ending homelessness in the region. 

PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES

The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.

Starting in April 2022, it is proposed that the FUSE Fellow will work to quickly build deep relationships with a wide range of critical stakeholders throughout the region, including various County Departments, such as the Executive’s Office and Department of Community and Human Services; the Regional Housing and Homelessness Authority, King County and Seattle Housing Authorities; All Home King County; nonprofits in the homelessness space; advocates and providers of homeless services; neighborhood, BIPOC, and faith-based leaders; community-based organizations; and content experts and universities, such as the University of Washington.

The Executive Fellow will utilize these conversations and build off existing efforts to conduct a needs assessment of King County’s residents experiencing homelessness through the lens of Covid-19 and the impact of the pandemic. The community engagement process must be trauma-informed, utilize individuals with lived experience, and be grounded in community-oriented connections. The needs assessment will map all service offerings, who provides and deliveries these services, what resources are typically unavailable, areas of care/services that are highly desired, pain points and gaps across many different types of services and their delivery – the assessment may highlight superfluous assessment processes, a seemingly unnavigable web of services or access opportunities, or geographically disconnected service points. The Executive Fellow will then conduct a gaps and weaknesses assessment of the current data/performance metrics captured by the service system. The Executive Fellow will assess what streams of data are captured across providers, if this data captures the realities of service delivery, and the effectiveness of services and services delivery of each provider. In reviewing the service system, the Executive Fellow should determine which funding streams, both public and private, support each initiative and how much funding goes to each program. 

Next, the Executive Fellow will design a framework for building a comprehensive, coordinated service system that easily connects those experiencing homelessness to all services and supports available in the region. This framework will include various archetypes of those experiencing homelessness and how services can be tailored to their unique needs or circumstances – ensuring the system does not homogenize these residents. This framework will outline processes that ensure each provider in the system can facilitate direct access or referrals to resources both within and outside the county’s purview, including supporting services such as workforce and educational opportunities that can foster economic opportunity post-pandemic. The framework should also establish processes for an ongoing coordinated needs assessment and performance analysis rooted in the voice of those experiencing homelessness. This process will outline how to consistently identify gaps in regional homeless services and the work required to address the causes of those weaknesses.

The Executive Fellow will develop a strategic investment plan for the Department of Assessments based on this framework. The Executive Fellow will support the county’s alignment to other public and private investments, determine how to best leverage the current infusion of federal funds to revamp the service system, how much investment should be made in each service area or initiative and identify new pools of funding to support new services that need to be implemented based on the assessment of the system. Each investment should support closing the health economic gaps created by the Covid-19 pandemic. This work will support the development of a homelessness services system that centers community voice and is focused on responding to needs and eliminating inequities to end homelessness for all in the county.

Over the year, the Executive Fellow will manage the following:

  • Engage internal and external stakeholders – Demonstrate cross-cultural agility and successfully engage with all relevant stakeholders; establish strong working relationships with King County agencies, private strategic partners, community-based organizations and residents, nonprofits, service providers, and advocates in the homelessness space; increase coordination among various housing and homelessness agencies regionally
  • Conduct a thorough needs assessment – Build authentic relationships with those experiencing homelessness, ensuring conversations are delivered with a trauma-informed approach – considering the new traumas associated with the pandemic; capture areas of care/services that are highly desired, pain points, and gaps across many different types of services and their delivery; work with cross-county stakeholders to map all service offerings, who provides and deliveries these services, and determine what resources are typically unavailable
  • Review data/performance metrics, and collate funding streams – Conduct a gaps and weaknesses assessment of the current data/performance metrics captured by the service system; determine minimum performance criteria shared across providers – if any; measure the effectiveness of services and services delivery; determine which funding streams, both public and private, support each initiative and how much funding goes to each program
  • Design a framework for building a comprehensive, coordinated system of services Outline various archetypes of those experiencing homelessness and the services that may best meet each’s unique needs; map processes that ensure each provider in the system can facilitate direct access or referrals to resources both within and outside of the county’s purview; recommend how to facilitate an ongoing, coordinated needs assessment and performance analysis
  • Form a strategic investment plan and support funding new services – Propose a collaborative funding model that prioritizes customer need in service delivery; propose shifting county investments to align or complement other private and public resource streams; determine how to leverage American Rescue Plan Act and potential Build Back Better Act funds to support increased delivery of services of high desirability or need; braid in new funding streams to support the implementation of pilot programs of services 

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

  • Executive Sponsor – John Wilson, Assessor, Department of Assessments
  • Project Supervisor – TBD

QUALIFICATIONS

  • Approximately 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field; background in program financing or investment beneficial
  • Community engagement experience essential; having built trust with those experiencing homelessness or having lived experiencing with homelessness
  • Robust experience in conducting extensive research, collating information from a variety of sources
  • Ability to quickly understand and translate financial data and KPIs
  • An enate listener and storyteller, ability to translate both qualitative and quantitative data into easily digestible narratives and form a business case
  • Proven success in cultivating partnerships and fostering collaborative networks of stakeholders
  • Cross-cultural agility, relating to a wide variety of audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy
  • Flexibility, adaptability, persistence, humility, inclusivity, and sensitivity to cultural differences
  • Process improvement and change management skills
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with ease in public presentations
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendation
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills
  • A self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who is an independent worker
  • Able to create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous environments
  • Understands the strength of diversity, and the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity
FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.
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