Adrienne Quinn, who has overseen King County’s response to the region’s homelessness crisis for the last half-decade, will step down later this fall, adding to a list of high-profile administrators involved in that ongoing crisis to resign this year.
King County Executive Dow Constantine, in a statement, said Quinn is moving on to teach executive leadership and nonprofit management at the University of Washington. Her final day with the county will be November 1.
Quinn’s resignation leaves a large hole in Constantine’s administration. As director of the Community and Human Services Department, she manages a $1.5 billion portfolio of services and policies, along with 400 employees. A spokesman for Constantine did not immediately respond to questions regarding Quinn’s replacement.
Quinn has taught public administration at the UW as an adjunct for the last five years. Moving into full-time teaching is “something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” Quinn said.
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“I have been proud to work with a very dedicated team at the county who work weekends and nights trying to improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable neighbors in King County,” she said.
Quinn is leaving as King County is in the midst of talks with Seattle on how to integrate the collective response to homelessness, which critics, as well as Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and the King County auditor, have said is hindered by lack of consolidation.
How her departure will impact the effort is unclear. Quinn said Tuesday that an ideal result of the talks would be a single office that both coordinates the response and is responsible for its performance. Policy recommendations are due to Constantine and Durkan by the end of the year.
Quinn’s resignation follows the recent departures of two other managers of the region’s response to homelessness. Her counterpart in Seattle’s human services department, Catherine Lester, stepped down in May. Mark Putnam resigned as director of All Home, King County’s coordinating agency for homeless services, left in January.
Quinn came to the King County Department of Community and Health Services in 2013, two years before Constantine and former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray declared that the region’s homelessness crisis had reached a state of emergency. She joined the county after stints as head of the Seattle Office of Housing and director of the Medina Foundation.
During her tenure, Quinn presided over the county’s efforts to improve and expand services for people with disabilities, chemical dependency and mental illness, and shifted the county’s toward performance-based contracts for nonprofit providers.
She was known to be unusually candid about what policies are and are not working in the region’s fight to help people off the streets. Quinn recently called so-called tiny home villages “tiny shacks,” raising concerns Seattle’s increasing reliance on them may jeopardize federal homelessness funding .
But Quinn said that the region’s response to homelessness is on the right track. She spotlighted efforts to improve data and coordination about the homeless population, and put more focus on root causes of homelessness.
But more work is needed, she added. “I wish we were further along in the conversation,” she said. “If more people understood the causes of homelessness, we could move into how to bring everyone into the fold to help. The government cannot move the needle alone.”