*UDP Enrollment numbers were updated after publication.
As 2020 comes to a close, I hope you and your loved ones are healthy and as well as one can be in what has surely been one of the more challenging years we have faced as a department. Back in January, we already knew that “change” would be a theme this year.
One of the city’s top priorities for the year was to help stand-up and launch the new King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA). For HSD, this included transitioning our Homeless Strategy and Investment division staff and contracts to a co-location space with their County peers and development of a staffing plan.
While that work has been underway all year, little did we know at the start of 2020 that a global pandemic like nothing seen in at least a century was already underway. Not only did that slow the progress of this work, it lead to most employees shifting to work from home, being reassigned, and changing work plans. Plus significant impacts to our economy and unimaginable changes to how each of us conduct our daily lives.
With homelessness response transitioning to the KCRHA, our department planned to spend much of the year redefining how it exists within the human services space. HSD planned to work with staff, service providers, and clients to co-create a roadmap for the future. This work launched in February with an understanding that race and social justice should underpin everything that we were going to talk about. The public health crisis forced us to pause that work almost immediately. Little did we know the paradigm shift coming in the summer as the support for Black Lives Matter took on new meaning for our general society and millions more people “awoke” to the understanding that it’s time to rethink how we spend our tax dollars and how our governments respond to the needs of the community.
Human Services Department (HSD) staff and our community partners have been a part of the front-line response to COVID-19, pivoting programs and rising to the many challenges to help those most in need. I am deeply proud of the work we have accomplished together during this crisis. Our mission to connect people with resources and solutions during times of need so we can all live, learn, work, and take part in strong, healthy communities took on a much greater sense of urgency in 2020, even as we managed our ongoing work.
- In March, HSD’s Data, Performance, and Evaluation (DPE) team built an interactive map of food bank and meal programs operating in Seattle and King County. It is available to the public and provides up-to-date details for these resources. To date, the site has over 34,000 views and is updated on a regular schedule.
- HSD successfully redeployed approximately 130 employees throughout the department to fulfill mission priority work related to food distribution, set-up of emergency shelters in City-owned buildings, and shelter staffing support including overnight shifts. Staff also provisioned over $600,000 in PPE, sanitation supplies, and to-go food distribution supplies for emergency feeding providers.
- HSD helped our community partners respond to the pandemic by supporting multiple capital projects: including construction of three new childcare facilities to support families with low-incomes, relocation of the ROOTS youth shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic, and supporting relocation and expansion of the Ballard Food Bank facility.
- Our staff oversaw the implementation of two rounds of CDBG and ESG CARES Act emergency funding, working across six departments and the Mayor’s office to maximize impact, and managed 10 new COVID response funding sources totaling almost $50M of increased budget to aid in the City’s pandemic response.
- Over $8M in state and federal funds was awarded to providers for COVID response to BIPOC communities, free and reduced lunch students, people experiencing homelessness, and more, working with partners like the National Guard and the United Way of King County.
Preparing Youth for Success:
- A new public awareness campaign was launched in partnership with The Vida Agency – “Be Ready. Be Hydrated. / Prepárate. Hidrátate.” – which promoted healthy choices to counter sugary beverage marketing tactics aimed at youth of color. It was funded by the Seattle Sweetened Beverage Tax.
- Seattle Youth Employment Program (SYEP) developed a Summer Virtual Job Readiness Program pilot for over 200 youth in collaboration with Seattle Parks and Recreation and Seattle Police Department. The workshops included teambuilding, time management, problem solving, growth mindset, resumé and cover letter writing, interviewing, and certifications in First Aid/CPR and Food Handling. Participants earned a stipend of up to $599.
Supporting Affordability and Livability:
- 11,137 households were enrolled in the Utility Discount Program (UDP) through the COVID-19 online self-certification form through 1/03/21. The total number of households benefiting from UDP now exceeds over 40,000.
Promoting Public Health:
- The nationally-recognized Mobile Integrated Health Program partnership increased the service area for Health One and now allows any Seattle Fire unit to make a referral.
- HSD provided additional funds to our homeless service providers through an emergency funding process to support unanticipated costs due to COVID-19. We funded shelter programs, day/hygiene centers, and Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) sites. These funds allowed for program modification and physical layout of program spaces to be COVID-compliant.
- Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early March through September, HSD’s Navigation Team engaged over 2,300 individuals experiencing homelessness, made over 670 site visits for outreach, conducted over 1,650 encampment litter/debris pickups, and made over 610 shelter referrals.
- The Navigation Team had over 5,400 conversations about COVID-19 with people experiencing homelessness, provided over 2,600 hygiene kits, distributed over 2,300 COVID-19 and Hepatitis A related public health fliers, and handed out over 1,100 boxed meals.
- Over five days of outreach in September during the wildfire smoke emergency, Navigation Team System Navigators conducted 217 needs assessments, distributed 219 emergency shelter flyers, provided 178 basic needs items, made 32 referrals into the emergency smoke shelter and 30 referrals into other City-funded shelter programs.
- Three governance committees for the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) have been formed: Governing Committee (GC); Implementation Board (IB), and; Continuum of Care (CoC) Board. This included hiring Lived Experience (LE) Coalition staff, Johnathan Hemphill, to support the LE representatives at all levels of the governance structure. Joint meetings/trainings were also conducted focusing on racial justice.
- The new regional homelessness authority also established operational functions to support KCRHA employees and business operations (e.g. retirement, accounting and payroll services, insurance, and health benefits) and initiated recruitment for a CEO, including a final job description announcement and recruitment packet.
Promoting Healthy Aging:
- Early on in 2020, HSD was tasked with creating an action plan to manage the impacts of the pandemic on the vulnerable communities we work with. Aging and Disability Services division staff increased nutrition services by expanding delivery and mobile options to meet growth due to COVID and provided new guidelines and other support for our community provider network. Staff also pivoted in-home supports, offering online and telephonic services that helped keep over 12,000 community long-term care clients safe.
- Staff also supported social and civic engagement by moving Age Friendly Seattle programs online, creating a weekly virtual event series, coordinating a variety of other special events, and establishing an Aging King County YouTube channel featuring event recordings with closed captioning.
Supporting Safe Communities:
- As part of our Domestic Violence Awareness Month social media campaign, and to take advantage of a rare fifth #PurpleThursday in October, our staff and friends decided to join with some other DV awareness programs around the country in also promoting a Purple Pumpkin decorating challenge. Here are some of the results.
- As Mayor Jenny A. Durkan said recently, this year also brought “a civil rights reckoning that demanded our city address systemic injustices in policing, housing, health care, and education.” Because of changes to how our City addresses Public Safety, the Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (MODVSA) recently welcomed 13 colleagues from the Seattle Police Department to be part of the Crime Survivor Services Unit.
The Crime Survivor Services Unit’s focus is victim advocacy, providing immediate support to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, elder abuse, child abuse, violent crimes, and homicides. In addition, MODVSA also welcomed five new MSW Interns who are working with the MODVSA Manager on investment, program, and policy research.
- This new unit within the MODVSA, as well as the Office itself, will be part of something new in 2021, as HSD staff work through feedback gathered at the community forum series we recently held to help stand up its new Safe and Thriving Communities Division. This new division will respond to community requests for the City of Seattle to shift funding away from traditional police response and reinvest in community building efforts using nearly $22 million in annual investments.
As we look to 2021, we know that much of the public health response will continue for some time. We also know the challenging work we planned for this year will need to resume in the months to come.
Please join me in celebrating these tremendous contributions toward our department results. Thank you for continuing to rise to the challenge of making a positive difference in people’s lives!