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Seattle, King County leaders propose regional homelessness authority

The proposal aims to combine some city and county operations into one office space to oversee, respond, and react to issues regarding homelessness.

SEATTLE — Leaders in King County have proposed a new regional authority to combat the homelessness crisis in and around Seattle.

King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, and other regional leaders announced the plan Wednesday.

"We need a response that unifies us and is equal to the challenge," Constantine said. "When rooted in partnership, when everyone brings what they have to contribute in a collective-ownership, shared-impact model, we are all part of the solution."

The proposal involves a plan to combine some city and county operations and get them all under one roof in a new office space to oversee, respond, and react to issues regarding homelessness. This proposal comes after months of discussions between the county and the city, and as the issues of unauthorized encampments have stretched into neighboring suburbs, like Auburn and Kent.

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It’s unclear exactly what kind of money the new office would have control over, and the legislation will need approval from both the King County and Seattle City councils.

Members of both councils were supportive of the plan at the announcement, including Seattle Councilmember Sally Bagshaw and King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles. However, the measure has already drawn some pushback from King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who faulted the authority for being "undemocratically structured" and underrepresenting suburban cities.

"The homelessness crisis won’t be solved by pushing Seattle’s failed policies to the surrounding region," Dunn said in a statement. 

Washington state saw an overall drop this year in the number of homeless individuals from 2018, according to survey results released earlier this year by the Washington State Department of Commerce.

WATCH: Leaders propose regional homelessness authority

Volunteers did a one-night count in January and recorded 21,621 homeless, which was a drop of about 3.1%. 

The biggest gains were made with unsheltered individuals, which includes people sleeping outside, in cars, or parks. That population dropped by 1,022 people or 9.6%, according to the survey. Sheltered individuals, which includes those in emergency shelters, transitional housing, or in hotels and motels, grew by 322 people.

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