King County programs that provide family reunification through bus tickets and other ground transportation for people experiencing homelessness will get another $100,000 in funding through a supplemental budget proviso championed by Councilmember Reagan Dunn.

The funding was approved Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2019 by the King County Council as part of King County’s Supplemental Budget.

Additionally, the King County Executive’s office will work on the design of Dunn’s proposed Homeward Bound family reunification program. Dunn’s pending legislation would unify current family reunification services under a single, dedicated program and perform outreach among homeless communities to raise awareness of the service.

“This funding allows us to offer stop-gap family reunification services while collecting data that will inform the design of a dedicated Homeward Bound program,” Dunn said. “Considering that San Diego spends $1.2 million on their Homeward Bound program, ours will ultimately require a larger investment — but for now, this is a good start.”

King County currently spends just $37,000 across five programs on family reunification. Dunn’s budget proviso almost triples that funding.

According to King County’s 2019 Count Us In data, there is substantial demand for a Homeward Bound program, with 9% of homeless persons indicating that family reunification services would enable them to obtain permanent housing. The same report found that nearly half of the county’s homeless residents had lived in King County for less than four years.

Similar “Homeward Bound” programs across the country have resulted in success stories, including in cities such as Portland, San Francisco, New York City, Berkeley, New Orleans, West Palm Beach, and Denver.

On Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 20, United Way of King County released the following response:

“Homelessness is a regional problem that requires a coordinated regional response that focuses on investing in proven housing solutions at the scale of the problem. Last year we helped more than 2,000 people get off the streets through our Streets to Home program – including 116 people who were reunited with friends and family out of town,” said Lauren McGowan, senior director for Ending Homelessness and Poverty at United Way of King County. “Most people experiencing homelessness are from this region – they work here, go to school here, and need help paying for housing here. We urge our partners at King County to invest the $100,000 they approved today in our regional diversion system so that we can connect our unhoused neighbors with the appropriate housing solutions – including reunification.”