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King County considers busing more homeless out of the region

King County considers busing more homeless out of the region (KOMO News)
King County considers busing more homeless out of the region (KOMO News)
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SEATTLE – The King County Council met Wednesday to discuss a proposal to invest $250,000 to transport homeless individuals out of the region.

Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who initially proposed spending $1 million from the council fund for this initiative, said Homeward Bound is a cost-effective and proven approach to help end the homelessness crisis in King County.

“If we are going to have a meaningful reduction of the number of homeless people on our streets, the elected officials need to do their job and make tough choices," Dunn said. "And I’m asking them to make those tough choices today.”

In the proposal, a homeless individual would receive a pre-paid ticket to anywhere in the continental U.S., along with a meal stipend, if they can prove they have family in that city that is able to care for them.

The individual could not relocate to any county adjacent to King County.

The proposal was met with mixed reaction by the Council. While the program is voluntary, Rod Dembowski challenged the humanity of the tactic to combat homelessness.

“I think it is important that we consider the history of powerful people in society moving out undesirables,” said Dembowski.

Dunn referenced nearly a dozen cities that had similar programs to address homelessness in their region, including San Francisco, who invested $1.2 million in 2018 and relocated about 800 people through their Homeward Bound initiative.

He stressed the importance of verifying the receiving family member was legitimate and that each homeless individual would receive appropriate care before they were offered a ticket out of the region.

“We want to make sure that there is someone there that can care for them, that there is a roof over their head, that they’re stable, and they’re in a position to provide care,” Dunn told KOMO News.

In a one-night count of all of the homeless people in King County earlier this year -- Dunn said about 1,000 homeless people said they would benefit from reunifying with family.

Right now, the City of Seattle and a handful of Seattle non-profits already invest in diversion efforts, like bus tickets, to relocate the city’s homeless population.

And in 2018, according to Dunn, King County invested $37,000 to relocate 53 homeless families out of King County.

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The Regional Policy’s next schedule public council meeting is Nov. 13.

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