Solving homelessness is consistently the most important issue for people in King County. Yet, our community has struggled to commit to the full scope of what is needed to provide safe and stable housing for our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Tackling the most critical challenges facing our communities demands that we work together toward communities where every person is allowed to thrive. We know that our approach to ending homelessness must be urgent, coordinated, cross-sector and regional.
Enter Partnership for Zero, a new, united approach to dramatically reduce unsheltered homelessness in targeted geographic areas, made possible through an innovative public-private partnership. Our goal is to build a future where homelessness is rare overall and brief when it occurs, by creating the infrastructure and capacity — housing, shelter, health care and supportive services — to put every person who is experiencing unsheltered homelessness on the path toward permanent housing.
Responding to what those experiencing homelessness said they needed, Partnership for Zero is based on an emergency management framework that prioritizes system integration and coordinated resource deployment. This strategy will build infrastructure and add capacity to the system in order to deliver comprehensive services and housing or shelter for those experiencing unsheltered homelessness in target areas, helping to revitalize our communities and providing all residents an opportunity to thrive.
We are getting to work right away, and will do whatever is necessary to implement this program successfully. We want to do this once, do it well, and make sure it’s sustainable, and we expect there will be learning and adjustment over the course of the next year. We will operate with full transparency to keep the community updated as we go.
The project will be led by the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, a new government agency co-funded by the city of Seattle and King County, but independently operated under the leadership of regional authority CEO Marc Dones. Through We Are In — a coalition of philanthropies, businesses, service providers, advocates, and both housed and unhoused King County residents — private partners are contributing significant funding toward this effort, including Ballmer Group, Microsoft Philanthropies, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Symetra, Campion Foundation, Schultz Family Foundation, Seattle Foundation and Starbucks, among others, including every business that is a member of Challenge Seattle.
For years, our response to homelessness has been fragmented, slow, underfunded and insufficient. We know that long-term, stable housing with wraparound services yield the best outcomes; yet we have continued to disproportionately invest in short-term solutions such as congregate shelters with prerequisites and barriers to entry, which can be re-traumatizing in ways that perpetuate harm. Partnership for Zero can break that cycle.
Partnership for Zero will initially focus on downtown Seattle and the Chinatown International District, which hold the biggest concentration of people living unsheltered, along with a set of regional communities to be announced soon. Utilizing a combination of public and private resources, the Partnership for Zero model is designed to respond with urgency, adjust in real time as lessons are learned and demonstrate success in these targeted areas. Starting with downtown Seattle will make a visible difference in people’s lives, help a significant number of people move into stable shelter or housing, create a “proof of concept,” and allow the partnership to adjust the model as we learn so that we can expand it across the region.
Partnership for Zero — supported by a coalition of government, philanthropy, business, service providers, and people with lived experience of homelessness — shows us what is possible when we come together to take action against homelessness. With private capital aligned to a new model of government strategy, we can catalyze much needed infrastructure and systems change. After we demonstrate success in our initial geographic targets, we hope that other partners will join in this effort, enabling us to expand Partnership for Zero across the region.
Public-private partnership involves more than just government and private donors — it brings together our entire community, and We Are In is proud to be setting the table and inviting collaboration to accomplish big things. We hope that you’ll join us to learn more about Partnership for Zero and our fight to end homelessness across the region. Together, we can make King County a more equitable and vibrant community where all residents have the opportunity to thrive.
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