VSHSL Community Conversations: what we heard

Earlier this spring, the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy (VSHSL) set out to gather community feedback from people who live and work across King County. VSHSL partnered with community groups across King County to host a series of Community Conversations to receive feedback on the VSHSL; the conversations took place from March to June this year. Each VSHSL Community Conversation sought to spread awareness about VSHSL resources, gather community input on how levy programing is going, discuss what parts of the VSHSL may need improvement going forward,  and how a renewed VSHSL could make the biggest impact in the community.

Community feedback is important to addressing community need, breaking down barriers to equity and overall achieving success. Co-creation and collaboration from development to implementation is vital in trust building and creating equitable programing.

Community Conversations and engagement activities

Community engagement activities included Community Conversations, focus groups/listening sessions, and informational presentations. A total of 20 community conversations were held across each of King County’s nine county council districts, along with 20 focus groups and 12 informational presentations to gather feedback from community organizations, providers, contractors, and advocacy groups on their current experience with the VSHSL. These meetings and presentations provided a forum for community to share their thoughts on VSHSL renewal planning. Scroll to the bottom of the blog for a full list of all engagement meetings held to date.

Feedback Themes

Among the many things we learned, several themes emerged from the VSHSL’s multi-pronged community engagement:

  1. The VSHSL is a uniquely flexible funding source. The VSHSL’s flexibility was frequently described as a strength, from providing flexible financial assistance to the ability to work with partners in 2020 to make programming adjustments to be more responsive to emergent community needs at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  2. The VSHSL expands organizations’ impact in the community.  The addition of VSHSL funds into an organization’s budget allows services to have a greater impact, serving people and extending service to residents and communities who might not otherwise have access.  
  3. Technical assistance and capacity building (TA/CB) and other VSHSL provider supports help broaden organizations’ ability to serve the community. Many participants expressed appreciation for the resources made freely available by the VSHSL to VSHSL-funded providers, including translation and interpretation services, staff trainings and capacity building opportunities such as mental health literacy, military and veteran culture, and trauma-informed care.
  4. Housing affordability continues to be a pressing concern across populations. According to community members, finding affordable housing is a challenge and is only getting harder. The number of affordable housing units available do not meet the need for affordable housing. Participants described long wait lists and low vacancy rates at affordable housing units throughout King County, and the increasing cost of affordable housing units relative to a person’s fixed income. Participants reflected that it can be difficult to help someone make progress in their financial stability, social engagement, physical/emotional health, or ability to access services (the VSHSL’s other result areas) when someone is not stably housed. 
  5. Performance measurement is necessary but sometimes burdensome.  Community expressed a deep understanding and appreciation for the collection of data. Additionally, they shared concerns around the time commitment when fulfilling data reporting requirements specified in VSHSL contracts.
  6. Additional resources are needed to attract and retain qualified staff. VSHSL-contracted providers and other human service organizations conveyed their direct experiences with the growing need for services beyond their current capacities. Participants applauded King County’s partnership with 501 Commons to analyze wages and benefits in the nonprofit sector through the 2021 Nonprofit Wage and Benefits Survey, as well as analyze other factors that contribute to employee recruitment retention and satisfaction.

Next steps

The current Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy expires December 31, 2023. The King County Executive and King County Council are now considering whether and in what form a renewal levy should go to the voters. To begin the discussion and planning process, DCHS developed a report to assess the existing VSHSL and propose recommendations for a renewed Levy to inform policymaker deliberations about potential renewal of the VSHSL. Community feedback, paired with program performance measurement data and annual reporting, inform this report.

Community partnership and feedback is vital to the VSHSL. It will continue to inform future phases of renewal planning should policymakers authorize a ballot measure to renew the VSHSL. We still want to hear from you. If you were unable to participate in the Community Conversations or have more feedback to share, please reach out to the VSHSL at VSHSL@kingcounty.gov to share.

2022 VSHSL Renewal Community Engagement Meetings 

Community Conversations 

  1. Bellevue, Mercer Island, and the Eastside of Lake Washington
  2. Burien, Duwamish Valley, West Seattle, White Center
  3. Central and Southeast Seattle
  4. Downtown and Seattle area
  5. Carnation, Duvall, Issaquah, Sammamish, and Skykomish
  6. Federal Way, Algona, Auburn, Milton, Pacific
  7. Kirkland, Redmond, Woodinville
  8. Maple Valley, Black Diamond, Covington, Newcastle
  9. North Lake WA cities 
  10. Northeast Seattle (Lake City, Northgate)
  11. Northwest Seattle
  12. Renton and Kent
  13. SeaTac, Des Moines, Normandy Park, Tukwila
  14. Skyway, West Hill, Bryn Mawr
  15. Snoqualmie Valley and North Bend
  16. Southeast King County (Enumclaw)
  17. Southwest King County (Federal Way)
  18. Vashon and Mary Island
  19. LGBTQIA+ Community
  20. Veterans, Servicemembers and their Families

Focus Groups

  1. Bellevue Network on Aging
  2. Civil legal providers
  3. Community responses to violence/criminal legal system work group
  4. Reentry programming staffing workgroup
  5. King County Disability Consortium
  6. King County District Court Regional Veterans Court staff work group
  7. King County Veterans Program North Seattle
  8. King County Veterans Program Tukwila
  9. Kinship Care Collaboration
  10. Path with Art Veterans Cohort Steering Committee
  11. Senior center directors (x3 meetings)
  12. Sound Generations’ GRAT Team
  13. Veterans with criminal legal involvement
  14. VSHSL Advisory Board Population Subcommittees (x3 meetings)
  15. VSHSL Summit Attendees
  16. Women Veterans

Informational Presentations

  1. Aging and Disability Services (ADS) Advisory Council
  2. Alliance of Eastside Agencies
  3. Coalition Ending Gender Based Violence – Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Directors Group
  4. Housing Development Policy Advisory Group
  5. Housing Development Consortium Leadership Development Survey Course Panel
  6. Immigrant and Refugee Extended Legal Defense Network
  7. King County Alliance of Human Services
  8. North Urban Human Services Alliance
  9. South King County Forum on Homelessness
  10. Washington Department of Veterans Affairs
  11. Workforce Development Council
  12. YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish