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Is a Bus Ticket the Answer to King County’s Homeless Epidemic?


King County Vice Chair Reagan Dunn is introducing a package of legislation aiming to address core needs of homeless populations, including the formation of a pilot program that offers people experiencing homelessness a long-distance bus ticket home for the purpose of family reunification.

Two other laws would form multidisciplinary outreach teams and create a notification system to alert prescribing doctors when one of their patients has died of an opioid-related overdose. All three measures were filed Tuesday morning.



Introduced earlier Tuesday, each piece of legislation offers strategies successfully implemented in other regions struggling with homelessness, including Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Proposal 1: Homeward Bound

The law would create a pilot program that offers long-distance bus tickets to homeless persons for the purpose of family reunification. 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 states nearly half of the county’s homeless residents have lived in King County for less than four years.

Currently, King County only spends $37,000 across five programs on family reunification. This new Homeward Bound program would dedicate $1,000,000 for the purpose of providing tickets home for homeless persons who want them.


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

Proposal 2: Metro Outreach Teams

One of the most visible public places that homeless people find shelter in King County is on transit lines and at bus stops. This proposal would pilot multidisciplinary outreach teams to connect with homeless persons using King County Metro.

These teams—made up of nurses, substance abuse counselors, mental health professionals, the formerly homeless, and others—would link ​people with shelter and services while ensuring that buses remain a welcoming and safe place for all.


Similar teams have been piloted in Los Angeles, resulting in approximately 4,800 people reaching services and over 80 homeless people obtaining permanent housing.

Proposal 3: Opioid-related Death Notification System

In an effort to tackle opioid addiction at its source, the law would create a pilot notification system that informs prescribing doctors when the death of one of their patients is found to be related to an opioid overdose. According to King County’s 2019 Count Us In survey, approximately one-third of homeless persons reported substance dependence.

This program mimics similar notification programs implemented in San Diego and Los Angeles County that resulted in a nearly 10% reduction in opioid prescriptions.

The above is a press release from the King County Council. The Auburn Examiner has not independently verified its contents and encourages our readers to verify any information they find may be overly biased or questionable. The publication of this press release does not indicate an endorsement of its contents.

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