Mark Putnam, executive director of the agency that coordinates homeless services in King County, is leaving the organization at the end of January.
The executive director of King County’s coordinating agency for homeless services will step down at the end of January, concerned about the agency’s authority to respond to the regional crisis.
Mark Putnam, who has led All Home since December 2013 when the agency was still called the Committee to End Homelessness, is leaving to become the executive director of Accelerator YMCA, which provides more housing for homeless young adults than any other organization in King County.
He said he is not leaving because of his ongoing concerns about All Home’s governance structure, but he does believe the agency lacks authority over the region’s homelessness response. All Home has a lot of responsibility but not much power to effect real change, he said.
The agency board can set policy and lay out strategies, but it has no authority to enforce them and no dedicated funding. The All Home board includes representatives from the city and county, but those entities make their own decisions about what programs to fund and where to focus their efforts.
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“I believe we need to make that kind of shift, where we are really consolidating authority over and oversight around homelessness,” Putnam said. “That’s been one of the challenges of the job, but it’s not the reason I left. The reason I left is the opportunity at Accelerator YMCA. But I guess it’s one of my regrets we didn’t get it all sorted out.”
Adrienne Quinn, director of King County’s Department of Community and Human Services, echoed Putnam’s concerns.
A coordinating agency needs to exist “that really has authority over funding and ensures that the funding is aligned and that we’re getting the results that we all and the community expects,” said Quinn.
Other cities, including Portland and San Francisco, have streamlined their government structures to centralize funding and strategies for homelessness.
“We will have continued conversations with stakeholders and between the city and the county about what the right structure is of All Home going forward,” Quinn said.
Putnam announced his departure at Wednesday’s meeting of the All Home Coordinating Board, the agency’s governing body. Several board members praised Putnam, including Quinn. He pushed the agency to gather clearer data of people who access homeless services, “so we know what’s working and what’s not working,” she said.
Putnam also drew praise from board members for his efforts to look at homelessness through a race and equity lens. Last year, All Home held a race-equity summit, and the Coordinating Board voted to focus on helping more Native Americans experiencing homelessness find permanent housing.
“Mark (Putnam) has done an incredible amount of work in four years in an extraordinarily difficult position,” Quinn said.
He won’t leave All Home until after the county’s annual Point in Time Count of people in homelessness, called Count Us In, on Jan. 26.
Kira Zylstra, assistant director, will serve as All Home’s acting director until a permanent replacement is chosen.