Former Speaker of the House of Washington State, Representative Frank Chop, According to emails obtained by the Seattle Times, D-Seattle appears to have redirected the approximately $2 million that Seattle governments were going to award to two nonprofits and earmarking it to one nonprofit.
The $2,050,000 award in state funding was allocated in the 2021 budget season, and the King County Regional Homeless Authority announced last week that it would be divided between Catholic Community Services and the main Seattle club for tiny home shelters for the homeless. will be divided.
A spokesman for the state’s Department of Commerce confirmed Wednesday that the money, if approved by Gov. Jay Inslee, would instead go directly to a low-income housing institution.
The regional homeless authority made strategy and budget decisions for homeless spending in Seattle and King County earlier in the year. The new government agency controls most of the money the city of Seattle and King County spends on homelessness.
While local politicians, as well as people experiencing homelessness, sit on its board, the authority was intended to put experts more in charge of spending government money wisely.
“We have created a King County Regional Homelessness Authority, so we will have experts to design our homelessness strategy and then be able to hold them accountable,” said Adrienne Quinn, who teaches a class on homelessness at the University of Washington And sit on the Authority’s Implementation Board – although she was not speaking on behalf of the Authority. “But they cannot be held accountable for strategies they are not introducing.”
Chop said he was not playing politics, but was “rededicating” the money to his intended purpose.
“If (the authority) wants to help me solve this or try to problem-solve, I’m ready to help them,” Chop said. “I’m trying to provide more housing – producing more housing – for people who are suffering or dying on the streets.”
It’s not unusual for a state to give money directly to a nonprofit, but since the pandemic, the state’s commerce department has made it a habit to give shelter money to Washington’s counties and city governments, who then give them whatever they need. choose to fund what feels good: shelters, tiny houses or, as in Walla Walla, huts that resemble pioneer-era Conestoga wagons.
But it is unusual for a legislator to reverse the competitive public bidding process and instead give money to an organization he is closely related to. The Institute’s executive director, Sharon Lee, is a longtime friend of Chop’s and an apartment at the Institute in Bremerton is named after her.
Lee said he didn’t ask Chop to redirect the money.
Chop said money was never a reward for authority, and he is also friends with the heads of two other nonprofits that are not receiving money. Chop co-founded the Low-Income Housing Institute, one of them being Michael Reichert, director of Catholic Community Services for Western Washington.
$2 million was set aside for “tiny houses and cottages” in the 2021 state budget. At the time, the city was still in charge of its homeless spending and Seattle City Council member Andrew Lewis, a leading advocate for tiny houses, began a campaign to build more tiny house villages with public funds and More than $1 million from wealthy individuals and developers – money that will be donated directly to a low-income housing institution.
Chop said in an interview that Seattle sat on money for a full year instead of building those tiny houses. While this is true, the city’s homeless department was thin in its preparations to award its contracts to the regional homeless authority, which was delayed in its establishment by the arrival of COVID-19.
Seattle Deputy Mayor Tiffany Washington said the city was down to three employees in its homeless division last year, which slowed things down — and the authority’s director, Mark Donne, moved too quickly by comparison.
“Mark’s vision — and I share this vision — is to diversify,” Washington said. “And that is why Mark chose to run a process instead of allocating funds directly to LIHI. We have other providers that are opening non-traditional shelters.”
Chop admitted he didn’t know whether his change would speed up or slow down the process, now that he has reversed the authority’s decision.
Lee denied that there was anything unfair about Chop’s changes, adding that it was actually the authority that was biased and contained a conflict of interest—though she would not explain why.
She said the homeless authority could use existing funding to fulfill promises from Catholic Community Services and the Chiefs Seattle Club, and that she would be willing to contribute some of the state’s funds to the Chiefs Seattle Club’s proposal.
“We need a huge scale around resources to end people’s homelessness,” Lee said. “—Well, when he campaigned, he wanted to add 2,000 tiny houses villages, shelter beds, or permanent supportive housing in his first year. I think we need a lot of people to move forward.”
In King County, tiny house villages are popular with many lawmakers, but have faced criticism from experts and some current residents. Donn has criticized the small house village model of low-income housing institute Champion.
Late last year, the authority launched a competitive bidding process to access the money. According to a memo obtained by Greeley Tribune, the low-income housing institution applied, but the authority’s review committee recommended against awarding it to the nonprofit. The executive director of news site PubliCola Lee. told She was planning to appeal against the decision.,
“The Authority undertook a community process that involved people with live experience and community members as well as Authority employees in consideration of this award,” said Authority CEO Donnes. “And we would figure out a way to make sure that our partners who wanted to move forward with a good extension that would benefit the community, would be able to do as well as we can.”
According to an email obtained by Greeley Tribune, in January, Chop called the authority’s intergovernmental relations manager, Nigel Herbig, and told him that if the homeless authority did not use the funds for tiny house villages, He was “going to pull” the fund,,
“He told me in no uncertain terms that he was going to redeploy money specifically to be used for[small house villages]in Seattle,” Herbig wrote to his supervisors in an email.
It’s not clear from the email whether Chop was threatening to pull the money if the money doesn’t go specifically to a low-income housing institution, but an “information form” obtained by the Times on January 28, two days after the conversation. It seems — it seems, to show Chop that the funding proposal goes directly to the institution, in the supplemental budget the governor is about to sign next week.
Chop said in an interview that he never threatened to pull funds, but that they were always state funds and that he was concerned that the regional homeless authority had said that developers could apply for benefits – something to which the state could. Cannot spend taxpayers money.
But in Herbig’s email from January, Herbig said that a nonprofit can only purchase materials or accept land or building materials for profit. The nonprofit must control the site and run the operations.
While the for-profit Everett company Pellet also submitted a bid that the authority did not choose, Catholic Community Services planned to purchase Pellet’s “micromodular” shelters that used plastic composite for their proposed village., One such shelter was set up by the county government at Queen Anne in 2020.
On March 18, the Homeless Authority announced that it would award $1.5 million to Catholic community services and approximately $2 million to the Indigenous-led nonprofit Chief Seattle Club. All this money did not come from the state.
The authority is “evaluating the impact” of Chop’s change, according to another email Herbig sent to Seattle City Council on Wednesday morning, informing them that those funds are now “specifically earmarked for the low-income housing institution.” ” it was done. He received no written notice of the change, but the change is not final unless approved by the legislature and signed by the governor, Herbig wrote.
“Why isn’t (chop) being called to the carpet? He started LIHI,” Odom said.
Harold Odom, who lives in a small house village run by the institute and co-chairs the authority’s implementation board, said this “conflict of interest” looked to him like corruption.