Seattle region hires first head of homelessness authority

Elected leaders and people who’ve been homeless from Seattle and its suburbs voted Thursday to choose the region’s first leader of the region’s homelessness response.

It’s a key step to setting up the Regional Homelessness Authority, which is supposed to declutter and depoliticize King County’s messy homelessness response, which has never had one clear decision-maker.

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The governing board of the authority offered the job to Marc Dones, a policy strategist and activist based in Ohio. Dones, 35, accepted the position Thursday and will officially start April 26.

One of Dones’ biggest tasks will be to bring Seattle, King County and suburban cities together on a cohesive strategy to address homelessness throughout the region. Already, tensions between the groups has caused delay in getting the authority off the ground.

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The pandemic also delayed the timeline for choosing a CEO by six months, and then, the first person offered the job turned it down. Dones was the runner up.

Dones has advocated locally to give people who’ve experienced homelessness more say over how the country responds to the growing crisis and has been critical of the nonprofits that local governments contract with to help people directly.

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"Government is only what we agree to do together," Dones said Thursday in an interview. "I feel like we have a chance to really get some stuff right, and really build and run a system that is really focused on the right things, and is listening to everybody, rather than, in the traditional bureaucrat mode, ‘we know what’s best for all of you.’