About Us

Overview

The Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) is one of the largest contributors to Seattle's safety net. We advance our Vision and Mission by investing over $170M in contracts to nearly 150 community-based organizations and programs that support strong and healthy communities. We do this work in close collaboration with the Mayor's Office, the Seattle City Council, King County, United Way of King County, Public Health - Seattle & King County, and many, many other regional partners.

HSD has about 400 employees and is organized through five divisions designed to deliver outcomes that work for community, promote innovation, and advance racial equity. These divisions are Youth and Family Empowerment (YFE), Mayor's Office on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (MODVSA), Leadership and Administrative Division (LAD), Aging and Disability Services (ADS), and Homelessness Strategy and Investment (HSI).

2021 Priorities

Every year, the department highlights its annual priorities. Last year was upended by the pandemic. In 2021, we are looking to continue our COVID-19 response, bring on new programs, and restart several initiatives that had to be set aside to address emergency priorities:

  • Complete the New Regional Homelessness Authority Staffing and Investment Transition: HSD's divisions are leading the way with impactful work that touches every community in Seattle. One of HSD's top priorities is to continue supporting the launch of the new King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA). This includes transitioning HSI staff and City investments, on-boarding a new CEO, and development of an organizational chart. This big structural change not only impacts the City's efforts, but also requires ensuring an uniterrupted flow in services provided by our community partners.
  • Sustain critical COVID-19 work of providing shelter, food, PPE resources, and vaccinations for high-risk and vulnerable populations.
  • Re-Envision HSD: With homelessness response transitioning to the KCRHA, HSD will redefine how it exists within the human services space. This includes working with the public to stand up a new Safe and Thriving Communities Division. This extensive work will examine form and function, culture, and future HSD outcomes. Ultimately, we want HSD to attract and retain the most talented people, while positioning HSD's programs as a national leader in addressing poverty.
  • Develop a comprehensive community safety plan, including capacity-building and budget proposals, with community partners.
  • Complete Age Friendly Seattle priorities by increasing access to information and services through multiple platforms, promote social connection and support networks to reduce social isolation during COVID-19, and support the City's digital equity initiatives to increase access and connectivity for all.
  • Expand youth opportunity, including Seattle Youth Employment Program, Seattle Opportunity Promise and College Promise.
  • Establish the HOPE Team to lead outreach and coordinate shelter referral processes for those experiencing unsheltered homelessness.
  • Increase affordability for Seattle residents through benefits like the Utility Discount Program and services like the Summer Food Service Program.  

Outcomes that Impact Community: While we conduct this re-envisioning, the collective work of YFE, MODVSA, LAD, ADS, and HSI will continue--through the lens of racial equity--to support programs, initiatives, and policies that address six key impact areas:

  1. Preparing Youth for Success
  2. Supporting Affordability and Livability 
  3. Addressing Homelessness
  4. Promoting Public Health 
  5. Supporting Safe Communities
  6. Promoting Healthy Aging

As the Interim Director of the department, Helen Howell leads nearly 400 staff who make HSD’s role as a grantmaker, planner, and direct service provider possible. In partnership with providers and stakeholders throughout the community, the department strives to effectively steward public dollars by investing in strategies, programs, and services that work for the community, promote innovation in service delivery, and advance racial equity.
The Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) has developed a results-driven investment strategy modeled after the Results Based Accountability™ (RBA) framework outlined in Trying Hard Is Not Good Enough, by Mark Friedman. RBA helps HSD move from ideas to action and ensure that the department's work is making a real difference in the lives of vulnerable people. This framework also helps ensure that HSD is a highly functional, accountable agency that is leading the way toward addressing community disparities.
Performance Seattle is a central dashboard where City of Seattle residents can see what their City is doing to make their lives better. Performance Seattle tracks the City’s performance on seven key priority areas that matter most to residents and provides an in-depth look at City performance data through a variety of data visualizations, including maps, charts, graphs, and infographics. Each of these seven dashboards tracks a different priority area and provides residents with a deeper understanding of how well the City of Seattle is meeting key on-going service targets and multi-year goals.
HSD's work is funded by a variety of revenue sources, including federal, state, and inter-local grants, as well as the City's General Fund. General Fund contributions leverage significant grant revenues to benefit Seattle residents. As a result, external grants represent nearly 40% of HSD's $301.5 million 2021 Adopted Budget, while the General Fund represents nearly 58%. In addition, $4.7 million of HSD's expenditures are backed by the City's Sweetened Beverage Tax Fund, representing roughly 1.6% of the department's 2021 Adopted Budget. Just over 1% of HSD's 2021 Adopted Budget is supported by Short Term Rental tax revenues which fund investments in permanent supportive housing.