Reduce Unsheltered Homelessness in Downtown Seattle


New “Partnership for Zero” Collaboration Launches to Dramatically Reduce Unsheltered Homelessness in Downtown Seattle

Partnership for Zero is supported by a coalition of government, service providers, business, philanthropy, and people with lived experience of homelessness and will deploy public and private resources to meet this challenge

SEATTLE — A new public-private collaboration, Partnership for Zero, is launching to create a united approach to dramatically reduce unsheltered homelessness, starting in Downtown Seattle and a set of regional communities to be named soon. Building on the efforts that led to the creation of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA), the City of Seattle, King County, and We Are In –– an advocacy coalition of philanthropies, businesses, service providers, advocates, and both housed and unhoused King County residents –– are coming together to launch this unique partnership in support of KCRHA’s plan, beginning with more than $10 million of private contributions in the first year.

Starting with the premise that housing is a basic human need that everyone should have access to, Partnership for Zero is made possible through an extraordinary collaboration and historic investment from King County’s business and philanthropic communities. The project will be led by the KCRHA and receive significant private funding through the members of We Are In (full list of Partnership for Zero funders below). Together, the goal is to build a future where homelessness is rare overall and brief when it occurs, by combining resources and investing in targeted infrastructure and capacity to put every person who is experiencing unsheltered homelessness on the path toward permanent housing.

The King County Regional Homelessness Authority is a new administration co-funded by the City of Seattle and King County but independently operated under the leadership of CEO Marc Dones, created to implement a county-wide approach to solving homelessness. Addressing homelessness at a regional level is a novel approach for Washington State but a proven and successful model in other parts of the country. The Partnership for Zero model is designed to react quickly, adjust in real time as lessons are learned, and demonstrate success in a targeted area, utilizing a combination of public and private resources. Partnership for Zero will initially focus on Downtown Seattle and a set of regional communities to be named soon. Because Downtown Seattle currently holds the largest concentration of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the region, creating the infrastructure to solve unsheltered homelessness in the downtown core will make a visible difference over time.

Felicia Salcedo, Executive Director of We Are In: "The public-private partnership that made Partnership for Zero possible involves more than just government and private donors –– it brings together our entire community. We Are In is proud to be setting the table and inviting collaboration to accomplish big things. Partnership for Zero will show us what is possible when King County takes action on homelessness together."

Marc Dones, CEO of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority: "Solving homelessness, especially chronic homelessness, is not an easy task; the problems we are trying to solve reached this level because of years of inattention and underfunding. It requires time and focus to do it right — peoples’ lives depend on it — and this partnership is designed to work in a different way than what has been done before. Our “public-private partnership” is more than just an infusion of private dollars –– it’s about recognizing that homelessness is a whole of community issue that requires a whole of community response. This is about bringing our entire community together, centering the voices of people with lived experience, and moving away from analysis and towards action."

Connie Ballmer, Co-Founder of Ballmer Group Philanthropy, lead funder of Partnership for Zero: “The King County Regional Homelessness Authority is an incredible asset to our region, helping to design a stronger, more coordinated county-wide response to a humanitarian crisis. We and the philanthropic community are pleased to be able to provide bridge funding to support the Authority to quickly launch Partnership for Zero, a proven approach to substantially reduce homelessness.”

LaMont Green, Chair of the Washington State Lived Experience Coalition: "With Partnership for Zero, we are building a homeless response system that is co-architected by those most impacted. This human-centered approach to homelessness treats people experiencing homelessness as people, meets them where they are, and gets them the resources they need. By coming together to build a more empathetic approach to homelessness, we can make a transformative difference for our communities that leans into our vision for a racially and socially just King County."

Michelle Seitz, Chairman and CEO of Russell Investments and Co-Chair of Challenge Seattle: “The past two years have provided unprecedented opportunities to build bridges between businesses, government, and the communities we serve. Washington has been Russell Investments’ home for 85 years. We live here, we work here, we raise our families here, and we want a healthy community for all. Working side-by-side with the Partnership for Zero coalition, I believe we can create a better future for everyone and help lift up those who so desperately need our help.”

The Partnership for Zero model will be deployed in five phases:

  • Phase 1: Ramp Up and Unified Command Center. The establishment of a Unified Command Center with clear lines of decision-making authority over resources, to facilitate a coordinated emergency response in Partnership for Zero’s target areas. The Unified Command Center includes representatives from the Lived Experience Coalition, the City of Seattle, King County, and the King County Regional Homeless Authority.

  • Phase 2: Development of a By-Name List. A “By-Name List” includes granular, real-time information about who is experiencing unsheltered homelessness, and what they need to move to stability. This tool relies on relationships built by outreach workers, and enables effective case planning and service matching.

  • Phase 3: Case Planning and Service Matching. An assessment of what services and resources are needed to successfully support people experiencing unsheltered homelessness and put them on the path to stable, permanent housing. The gaps identified between available resources and population needs will inform the expansion of infrastructure and capacity.

With funding from We Are In’s business and private partners, KCRHA will hire and manage sufficient staff to do the hard work of caring for people. The workforce will include 15 trained incident responders and up to 30 peer navigators who can provide longitudinal support to get people to stable outcomes. Peer navigators have lived experience of homelessness and an understanding of how the system works and how to access resources, enabling them to establish the trust needed to help people move from homeless to housed.

  • Phase 4: Draw Down. The majority of housing and shelter placements will happen in Phase 4, as outreach workers and peer navigators facilitate the movement of people into shelter or housing that matches their needs.

  • Phase 5: Hold Steady. Once Phase 4 is complete, KCRHA will maintain the infrastructure necessary to immediately respond to new individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness in target areas.

In the Downtown core, we expect to reach phase five in what could be as fast as 12 months, though we expect some variance in timeline due to command center development and project staffing, client needs, and the availability of appropriate resources. Partners expect that there will be learning and adjustment over the course of the project and will operate with full transparency to keep the community updated. We are committing to doing whatever is necessary to implement this program successfully –– we want to do this once, do it well, and make sure it’s sustainable.

The Partnership for Zero plan, developed by the KCRHA, aligns with the six recommendations outlined in Challenge Seattle’s “Chronic Homelessness: A Crossroad” report to create a more centralized, data-driven, and individualized approach to address chronic homelessness in real time with both housing and key services.

The We Are In investment for 2022 is more than $10 million for peer navigators, flexible funding, a command center and data. We Are In, with the lead resources from Ballmer Group, are funding the plan with support from 30 philanthropic organizations and businesses. Support from philanthropy and private resources will launch this demonstration program in 2022, and as the model is refined, will seek sustainable funding in following years.

The Partnership for Zero demonstration project is supported by major businesses and philanthropies in King County, including: Ballmer Group, who has contributed a lead gift, as well as Alaska Airlines, Amazon, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Campion Foundation, Costco, Expedia Group, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, JP Morgan Chase Pacific Northwest, Kaiser Permanente Washington, Madrona Venture Group, Microsoft Philanthropies, Nordstrom, PATH, Puget Sound Energy, Raikes Foundation, REI, Russell Investments, Schultz Family Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Starbucks, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Symetra, T-Mobile, Weyerhaeuser, and Zillow Group.

About We Are In:

We Are In is a coalition of people and non-governmental organizations — including business, philanthropy, advocates, service providers, and housed and unhoused King County residents — who are uniting resources to end homelessness across King County and advocate for more affordable housing. Funders include Ballmer Group, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Campion Foundation, Microsoft Philanthropies, Raikes Foundation, Schultz Family Foundation, and Symetra.

About KCRHA:

The King County Regional Homelessness Authority is designed to unify and coordinate funding, policy, and services for homelessness response across our region. After a community-driven engagement process, KCRHA was created by an interlocal agreement between the City of Seattle and King County, with support from the Sound Cities Association and the Lived Experience Coalition. Our mission is to significantly decrease the incidence of homelessness throughout King County, using equity and social justice principles.