Innovative Philanthropy Coalition to End Homelessness in Seattle Area Takes Shape

Innovative Philanthropy Coalition to End Homelessness in Seattle Area Takes Shape

Kids sketch of house with stick figure family and the words "my dream" above it on background of painted white bricks
Katie Hong, Raikes Foundation, and Sheila Babb Anderson, Campion Foundation | Guest Contributors

Newly Formed King County Partners Group Seeks Founding Director

After years of work to build a sustainable coalition for homelessness and housing in the Seattle area, the King County Partners Group and its campaign arm We Are In are seeking a Founding Director. Read more about the position and application details here, and read below for the story of how this coalition took shape:

It’s no secret that Seattle and its surrounding region in King County have one of the highest rates of homelessness of any area of the country. The story is a familiar one: as some of the most successful companies in the world attracted tens of thousands of new people to our region over the past decade, housing supply, especially affordable homes, has not kept up with demand. Homelessness has increased as more and more people are unable to find or keep an affordable place to live. Black, Indigenous, and people of color are disproportionately affected due to decades of systemic inequities. This dynamic, combined with under-resourced efforts to support people with mental health and addiction issues, makes homelessness a top issue on the minds of people in our county. 

King County has no shortage of philanthropic organizations that focus on ending homelessness and building more affordable homes. Our organizations - the Raikes Foundation and Campion Foundation - are two of them, but our foundations are primarily focused on young people experiencing homelessness and systems change at the state and federal levels, respectively. 

While we are still focused on our respective areas, starting in 2018, our foundations joined with a coalition of businesses and philanthropies in King County to combine our collective knowledge and resources to focus together for the first time on long-term strategies to end homelessness locally - in the county and cities where we live and where our organizations are based. At the same time, we committed to a collective focus on the racial disproportionality not only present in populations experiencing homelessness, but also in the rooms where decisions are made about homelessness strategy and funding for our region. 

From the beginning, our coalition has been a collection of organizations with many varied and diverse interests - but we put our heads together to work toward common goals. On the private philanthropy side, the Campion and Raikes Foundations have been working closely with Ballmer Group, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Schultz Family Foundation, and United Way of King County. On the business side, we have partnered with Microsoft Philanthropies, Symetra, Vulcan and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. 

In our first full year together, 2019, we collaborated to support two major initiatives. First was the creation of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA), a groundbreaking new government agency combining county and city efforts together for the first time ever, recognizing that homelessness is a regional issue. We strongly supported the KCRHA’s successful efforts to include multiple spots on both of its boards chosen by organizations representing people with lived experience of homelessness, and the KCRHA’s first-ever CEO, Marc Dones, just started earlier in June.

Some of our members also supported the creation of the Regional Action Framework, the comprehensive roadmap to end homelessness and build more affordable homes in King County. Working with McKinsey & Company and the Corporation for Supportive Housing, led a thorough stakeholder engagement process, including people with lived experience, service providers, advocates and funders to create a roadmap that our coalition will be supporting for years to come.

While the worldwide pandemic delayed many of our plans, we have now moved to the next step: the formal establishment of the King County Partners Group.

As funders, we are turning over our work to a collaborative and inclusive coalition that brings together providers, people with lived experience of homelessness, and other key stakeholders to steer the next steps of our work. Weaved into every step is a conscious focus on racial disproportionality, equity, and justice, and centering the process and decision making with people who have been personally affected by not having a place to live. 

The King County Partners Group, and its campaign We Are In, are now housed inside the Seattle-based nonprofit Building Changes. And we are hiring for the first in-house staff member for the Partners Group, a Founding Director that will lead our efforts into 2022 and beyond. The Founding Director will build out a team and will be empowered to lead bold advocacy efforts by working alongside Seattle, King County, the Regional Homelessness Authority and other government partners - keeping on track with the Regional Action Framework, ensuring excellent data collection and analysis, and coordinating funding efforts that support systems change. 

While it has taken years to get to this point, we still have so much work to do. By being deliberate and inclusive in the establishment of the King County Partners Group, and by grounding all of our work in racial equity and justice, we hope we have set the organization up for many years of success, working with existing partners to reach the ultimate goal of ending homelessness in our region. 

Thank you to all of the philanthropies, businesses, nonprofits, and government and community leaders who helped us get to this point - the work continues! 

Katie Hong is director of special initiatives at the Raikes Foundation, and Sheila Babb Anderson is homelessness program director at the Campion Foundation and Campion Advocacy Fund.