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Northwest

New King County program connects homeless people to jobs and housing

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King County Executive Dow Constantine on Wednesday, Sept. 29 met with one of the new crews restoring and enhancing regional parks and trails, an early success of the Jobs and Housing Program he included in the pandemic recovery package announced earlier this year.

King County’s Jobs and Housing Program hosted focused recruitment events at emergency shelters to offer people experiencing homelessness the opportunity to join King County Parks Beautification Crews, earning salaries that can help them transition to permanent housing, according to a Sept. 29 county news release. The new program applies the Rapid Rehousing model developed by the King County Department of Community and Human Services to connect participants with housing.

King County is working to expand the Jobs and Housing Program to other county services, including logistical support for emergency management, sanitizing fleet vehicles, and providing customer support for animal services.

“Our new Jobs and Housing Program is one example of how we are sparking an equitable recovery throughout King County,” Constantine said. “By connecting our unhoused neighbors with good-paying jobs and case managers who can help them transition to permanent housing, we are helping more people and families thrive.”

Successful candidates for the program can earn between $20 and $25 per hour for temporary positions and can receive housing supports. Program participants will also receive career support aimed at helping them transition to permanent jobs and permanent housing. The program helps people who have gaps in their employment history and potentially offers them professional references for future job searches.

The beautification crews are starting at five King County parks where they will perform a variety of tasks, such as landscaping, athletic field maintenance, trail building and maintenance, construction and demolition, invasive weed removal, restoration, and planting. The first regional parks where the crews operate are:

• Five Mile Lake Park in South King County

• White Center Heights Park

• Marymoor Park in Redmond

• Tolt-MacDonald Park and Campground in Carnation

• Three Forks Natural Area along the Snoqualmie River in East King County

• Ravensdale Park near Maple Valley

The program will increase King County Parks’ seasonal crews by 36 people who are currently experiencing homelessness. The additional workforce is particularly helpful now that more people than ever are enjoying the regional parks and trails during the pandemic.

King County Parks has so far conducted five recruitment events at emergency shelters in Seattle, South King County, and East King County. Once background checks and physicals are complete, King County Parks provides crew members with on-the-job training while other partner organizations assist with securing housing and career counseling.

King County Metro is helping crew members arrive at worksites with its ORCA Business Passport program, which connects workers through its regional transit network, including Vanpool.

Constantine included funding for the Jobs and Housing Program in the combined $600 million COVID-19 supplemental budget he proposed in March. It has multiple funding sources, including the American Rescue Plan, FEMA, and the county’s general fund. The County Council approved $38 million for the program in May.

Other potential positions created by the Jobs and Housing Program could include:

• Cleaning and sanitizing vehicles and heavy duty equipment for King County’s Fleet Services Division

• Caring for animals and engaging with customers at Regional Animal Services of King County in Kent

• Performing litter removal in the road right-of-way at King County Roads Division

• Performing litter removal in unincorporated King County organized by the Department of Local Services

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