The director of King County’s coordinating agency for homelessness, All Home, has resigned after an annual homelessness conference last week during which a dancer gave lap dances and kissed attendees.
Acting director Kira Zylstra resigned over the weekend, a county spokesperson told The Seattle Times in an email Monday.
The spokesperson said that when officials at the county’s Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) found out about “a performance that was inappropriate for the conference,” they started an investigation into the event “and the leadership of All Home.”
“The investigation of the event and the leadership of All Home is currently underway,” spokesperson Sherry Hamilton wrote in the email.
DCHS chief of staff Denise Rothleutner has stepped in to run All Home in the meantime, according to Hamilton.
At the annual homelessness conference on Dec. 9, performer Beyoncé Black St. James danced topless in a sheer bodysuit, gave lap dances and kissed attendees, according to two sources who were at the event. Attendees were government employees, nonprofit workers and members of the faith community, some of whom seemed uncomfortable with the performance, those sources said.
“I’m not personally offended by it, it just seemed so wrong and out of place for what we were there for,” said Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett, worrying that critics of Seattle’s approach to homelessness would see video of the event and use it to target local government and its efforts to end homelessness. “I just knew it was going to hit social media and when it hit social media, this is kind of like what every opponent of the collective work would wish for.”
Zylstra was placed on paid leave last week. She had served as acting director of All Home for almost two years, but her agency could soon become obsolete: Seattle, King County and suburban governments are standing up a “regional homelessness authority” that will have more power over budgets and policymaking than All Home has had. King County voted to approve the new authority last week. The Seattle City Council voted 5-1 Monday in favor of creating the new authority.