New report reveals lack of compassion by the KCRHA
September 29, 2023
The Discovery Institute’s Fix Homelessness Project has incredible timing. Just hours before the think tank was to release its in-depth report on the King County Regional Homelessness Authority’s (KCRHA) “Partnership for Zero” (PfZ) program, it was announced that the publicly/privately funded effort is being shut down.
Like nearly all other KCRHA efforts, the PfZ significantly underperformed in its results.
The Discovery Institute’s report, titled “Homelessness Data Reveal Reason for Collapse of King County Outreach Program,” not only revealed how poorly PfZ was executing in its mission to provide housing to the homeless, it also revealed that there is no accountability or transparency with the $107 million the KCRHA handed out to 56 non-profits. This lack of accountability is allowed to take place because those who run the KCRHA don’t require accountability reports from the non-profits.
Boiled down, the KCRHA continues to waste millions of dollars that are supposed to help those who are homeless. By inefficiently spending money on a rapidly expanding bureaucracy and by wasting money on efforts with no data-proven results, KCRHA is not helping all those they could if the funds were administered properly. This is not compassionate to those who continue to suffer on our streets.
Partnership for Zero’s poor results
The Partnership for Zero was an $11 million homeless outreach program funded by both government sources (Federal, King County, and City of Seattle) and such local corporations as Boeing, Amazon, Microsoft, Alaska Airlines, Starbucks, and Nordstroms. This “mobile” outreach effort, led by KCRHA, sought to meet those suffering from homelessness where they are, in encampments and on the streets.
Downtown Seattle was the geographical focus of this program. When announcing the effort in February of 2022, then KCRHA CEO Marc Dones stated that within one year it would reduce the number of homeless downtown to just 30 people a night. Anyone who has been in the city’s retail core will tell you that this goal has not been achieved.
Report author Caitlyn Axe compared the 2022 results of Partnership for Zero with the 2022 results for two private organizations, the Salvation Army and the Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. Axe found that PfZ only found housing for 119 people while the private organizations combined moved 919 individuals into permanent homes with far less money.
It costs PfZ $19,829 to move an individual into permanent housing. Yet the Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission can perform the same task for $6,523 (or 32.9% of what it cost PfZ) and the Salvation Army accomplished the same result for just $2,298 (11.6%).
Not only were private organizations doing a much better job of helping homeless people, they also did it more efficiently.
The report then states that the above figures don’t reveal the full yearly cost of the program and that the per person cost is really closer to $26,500.
While no specific reasons were given for why the Partnership for Zero was shut down, but obviously the disastrous and costly results could not be ignored, even by ultra-liberal politicians who comprise the KCRHA Governing Board.
Lack of Accountability
The second part of the Discovery Institute’s report detailed the lack of accountability for much of the $107 million KCRHA hands out to local non-profits. There are 17 non-profits who each receives between $1 million to $17 million from the authority. Yet only five have reported how many people they have helped out of homelessness in 2021, and only eight provided a figure for 2022. Each non-profit was contacted numerous times, but a large majority did not have a record for the number of people it is helping with taxpayer money.
On the home page of the KCRHA’s website there is a section with the headline “Accurate Data You Can Trust.” The site states, “Data is a critical tool for preventing and ending homelessness. Many variables affect homelessness and the situation is often changing. Up-to-date information is essential to understanding our system’s ability to meet the need and identifying effective strategies for addressing the crisis.”
Yet the vast majority of organizations the KCRHA is handing taxpayer money to do not have any count of the number of people they are helping with the money. Of all of the critical pieces of information needed by the authority, isn’t this “data point” the most important? But since the politicians who lead KCRHA don’t require non-profits to provide this information, they either don’t collect it or they are fearful of publicly revealing the figure.
The report asserts, “every organization that receives government funding should be required to provide data on the number of people housed, and the associated costs. These outcomes should then be used to evaluate where further government funding is directed.”
This is basic transparency anyone receiving government funds should provide. It is irresponsible and an insult to taxpayers that the members of KCRHA’s governing board to not require this simple level of accountability.
If you agree that KCRHA (and the non-profit organizations they financially support) needs to be more transparent, then we need you to take action. We encourage you to contact the nine elected officials who serve on the authority’s Governing Board and demand that non-profits provide reliable data on the number of people they have helped and the cost associated with this effort. Without this information, taxpayers cannot trust that KCRHA is spending their money efficiently and effectively.
If we are truly seeking to be compassionate towards those who suffer on our streets, we need to demand that KCRHA use taxpayer funds more responsibly.
If it costs KCRHA nearly 10 times the amount that a private organization spends to house people, then isn’t it more compassionate to give the money to efforts which help more people?
If KCRHA is spending taxpayer money on non-profit efforts with no record of success, then would it not be more compassion to give it instead to those organizations which have a positive track record?