NUHSA wants to unite agencies to confront the hidden struggles of North King County residents
Though low-income residents, immigrants, refugees and communities of color are prevalent in North King County, the uncoordinated state of human services efforts in the region often leaves communities in need without relevant services.
The North Urban Human Services Alliance (NUHSA) wants to fix this. They are a nonprofit organization dedicated to coordinating human services efforts in the five North King County cities: Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Bothell and Woodinville.
“We live in an area where poverty and struggle are often not seen,” the organization’s website reads. “Broad geographical areas, limited public transportation, small agencies, and a lack of understanding of the numbers of community members needing assistance has made bringing the issues of human service needs to light difficult.”
Ultimately, the alliance wants to get community members the assistance they need to be independent and self-sufficient.
“Bringing folks from all these different levels of county and city, local government and nonprofits, community providers–making sure that we're all on the same page and sharing the information so that we can better serve our residents,” said Silje Sodal, executive director of NUHSA. “That partnership piece is really key to what NUHSA does.”
In recent months, NUHSA have held forums on housing issues and homelessness where members from different organizations have been able to speak directly to city leaders. Woodinville City Councilmember Sarah Arndt said that NUHSA has helped accelerate the city’s conversation about homelessness.
A cross-systems analysis by the King County Department of Community and Human Services estimated that around 40,800 people experienced homelessness in the county at some point in 2020. A cross-systems analysis of this type has not been conducted since that time, but the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) Count found that the number of people experiencing homelessness on a single night in King County grew by about 13.8% between 2020 and 2022. It has also found that homelessness disproportionately impacts Black/African American people; American Indian, Alaskan Native or Indigenous people; and people with disabilities, mental health disorders or substance use disorders.
The 2023 PIT Count was conducted on Jan. 26. Results have not yet been released.
“Service providers and the individuals that NUHSA was able to bring together really helped inform myself and other councilmembers and their perspectives as we have these policy discussions in the city,” Arndt said. “So I think that really contributes to the education of those of us who are making policy decisions … and then it trickles down into what actually happens at the city level, which then affects the day-to-day, even though you don't see it immediately.”
In December, four of the five North King County cities agreed to fund the King County Regional Housing Authority (KCRHA), an Interlocal Agreement between the county and the City of Seattle that aims to implement a unified response to homelessness in the county. Woodinville joined the agreement in January.
An October NUHSA panel was attended by Arndt and other organizational and city leaders, including Kenmore Mayor Nigel Herbig, Bothell City Councilmember Jenne Alderks and Shoreline City Councilmember Chris Roberts.
Herbig said that with the support of NUHSA, the King County “Stay Housed, Stay Healthy” alliance and the Washington State House of Representatives, the Kenmore City Council was able to pass Ordinance 22-0545 in March 2022.
This ordinance created new protections for renters in the city, including requiring earlier notice for rent increases, a ban on immigration status discrimination by landlords and caps on late fees, move-in fees and deposits. In June, the city expanded the ordinance to include just cause eviction protections and the prohibition of “abusive, deceptive, and unfair practices in rental housing.”
Still, more work must be done to make sure renters actually know their rights and protections.
“These are all well and good on a legislative side,” said Arra Rael in the meeting. Rael is the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Manager at the Center for Human Services, a nonprofit youth and family services agency in Shoreline. “How do you get this information into the hands of the tenants? Tenants who might be migrants; tenants who might be fearing, pushing back to abusive landlords; tenants who have limited English proficiency. Is there a centralized way for us to get this information to help [tenants] know their rights?”
“The answer to that is somewhat unsatisfying, because it’s kind of a patchwork,” responded Katie Wilson, general manager of the Seattle-based nonprofit Transit Riders Union. “So yeah, I think a lot more needs to be done.”
Wilson noted that NUHSA and other organizations have been pushing cities to get the word out to renters and landlords about their rights and protections through the mail or with easy-to-read information on city websites.
“Cities have a role to play and support human services, community organizations, school districts, faith organizations,” Sodal said in her interview with the Weekly. “We all have a part to play in ensuring the health and strength of our communities and supporting our human service providers to be able to effectively serve our communities.”
If you are interested in getting involved with NUHSA, you can attend a meeting by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit nuhsa.org to learn more and view a list of partner organizations.
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