Homelessness Agency Director Suspended, Investigation Launched After Racy Drag Show at Annual Conference

 

This post has been updated (Monday, December 16, 2:20 pm) to include this update:

Kira Zylstra, the acting director of All Home, has resigned her position as a result of the events described in this post. According to King County Department of Community and Human Services spokeswoman Sherry Hamilton, DCHS chief of staff Denise Rothleutner “has stepped in to provide oversight and supervision to the All Home staff.” The investigation into the event and the leadership of All Home is ongoing, according to Hamilton.

This post has been updated (Saturday, December 14, at 10:45 am) to include video from the event.

Kira Zylstra, the acting director of the agency that coordinates King County’s response to homelessness, All Home, has been put on administrative leave pending an investigation involving a solo drag show at the group’s annual conference by Spokane-based performer Beyonce St. James, who reportedly danced on tables, gave lap dances, and stripped down to a pair of silver pasties as people threw dollar bills.

Although some who saw the performance called it fun, “fabulous” and a rare opportunity for queer people of color—St James is black— to be represented in the sort of space usually dominated by straight white people, others disagreed, complaining that the show was too “sexual” and forced people to participate in a sexualized performance without prior consent.

UPDATE: Here’s the video (possibly NSFW):

The theme of the conference was “decolonizing our collective work.”

In emails, representatives of King County declined to comment about the investigation.

“We have placed the director of All Home on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation into the event and the leadership of All Home.”

Denise Rothleutner, deputy director of King County’s Department of Community and Human Services, said in an email: “The department is aware of an event that occurred during the All Home annual conference on December 9, 2019.  We have placed the director of All Home on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation into the event and the leadership of All Home.  Because there is an active investigation underway, I am unable to respond to specific questions about the event.”

Besides funders and city and county employees, the crowd included representatives from groups like Mary’s Place, Neighborhood House, Catholic Community Services, and other religiously affiliated organizations.

The controversy comes at a critical time for homelessness agencies, as the city and county prepare to merge their homelessness agencies into a single regional authority. As part of that process, All Home would be replaced by a new advisory board that would make recommendations to the new authority.

I’ve reached out to St. James to learn more about her work as a performer and activist and will update this post with additional information.

43 thoughts on “Homelessness Agency Director Suspended, Investigation Launched After Racy Drag Show at Annual Conference”

  1. The entire ALL Home Leadership should be fired and funding revoked. King County Leadership including Dow Constantine supports AllHome, he should not be relected.

  2. I believe I was too hasty the other day in condemning Kira Zylstra for that creep show – – obviously her colossal talents are wasted in the public sector/municipal sector when clearly she is remarkable in the category of event planning!

    I believe her best choice would be to found her own agency (my humble suggestion for a name: the Whatever Agency) and devote herself to a career as an event planner.

    I am sure that she will undoubtably strike fear into the hearts of many when they view her business card:

    Kira Zylstra, Event Planner

  3. Truly the mark of abject incompetence, vulgarity and complete lack of any class or pride in accomplishment.

    Best to call a load of crap a load of crap, and admit this is why everything is soooo corrupt in Seattle and King County!

    1. For F*** Sake VOTE THEM OUT because here’s what they do:
      As part of that process, All Home would be replaced by a new advisory board that would make recommendations to the new authority.
      Seriously????
      I’m sure part of the new board is to advise which of these bureaucratic microbes to put into a HIGH PAYING position that does nothing for those on the street.
      Meet the new boss….

  4. Excuse me?

    Can we set aside the PC gobbledygook about boundaries, triggers, etc., and call this what it is?

    It is wrong. Just. Wrong.

    The fact that the ‘entertainer’ was a black trans activist doesn’t make it right.

    The fact Zylstra gave the conference a SJW-friendly theme name ‘Decolonizing Our Collective Effort’ doesn’t make it right (BTW, just what the hell does that even mean, and what does it have to do with getting homeless people off the street and restoring them to some form of self-sufficiency?).

    Having a stripper perform at a taxpayer-funded event was in poor judgement, poor tastes, and patently unprofessional.

    You can bet your last dollar if a white, CIS-gender male manager brought in a non-trans stripper to perform at a Metro meeting, he’d be out on his ear in no time flat.

    There is no good reason for Ms. Zylstra to be collecting a County paycheck. As a senior manager, she should’ve known better. If she didn’t know better, she has no business being a senior manager.

    Either way, she has to go.

    1. And I thought all of the insane bureaucrats were here in California. Has any state,county or city agency released an audit of this “homeless agency”? Those are supposed to be public records. Taxpayers in Seattle should check it out line for line and then you’ll understand why nothing is done for the so called “homeless” but a lot of others are cutting a fat hog.

  5. I think it’s easy to rush to judgment here. Sometime conference organizers can have presenters that “go rogue” and change the content of their presentation without prior consultation. Kira Zylstra, (the acting director of the agency that coordinates King County’s response to homelessness, All Home) strikes me as a person of the utmost good character and judgment, who would not have permitted this erotic entertainment to be presented without forewarning to the conference attendees, had she known of its content.

    I was there and it’s the issue of consent that bothered me. The conference agenda read “lunch with cultural presentation” so that didn’t give enough information to those who may have been offended or triggered by the show, to absent themselves from the room in advance. The show also did nothing to combat the stereotypes driving the prejudice and discrimination against transgender people, that tend to typecast them into hyper-sexualized roles, and expose them to a greater degree of sexual and other violence.
    https://vawnet.org/sc/serving-trans-and-non-binary-survivors-domestic-and-sexual-violence/violence-against-trans-and

    Anyway a mistake was made somewhere – the ALLHOME team should acknowledge that, apologize, and move on with what they all work hard at every day, which is ending homelessness in our community. That’s work we can all get behind. No heads are needed here.

    1. This was a conference on homelessness policy, yes? Whether or not Beyonce Black St. James ‘went rogue’, or if event organizers knew this would happen, please explain to me why a black trans stripper activist is appearing at a conference about homelessness?

      This might’ve made sense if someone’s smoked enough weed, but speaking as someone who’s worked in Government for 30+ years, this is simply Koo Koo for Cocoa Puffs nutso!

      1. One more thing to consider: let’s give Zylstra the benefit of the doubt and assume the performer did ‘go rogue’. Zylstra would’ve still had a responsibility to step in and pull the plug on the performance, full stop.

        From what was described, she let the whole thing go on, as as far as we know, enjoyed it.

        All the more reason why she needs to get the boot.

    2. Memo to Ciara; Seattle and King County prepare to replace All Home, which has been criticized as WEAK AND INEFFECTIVE.
      Just like most gov’t agencies.
      Here in CA the homeless czar of LA County resigned after FIVE YEARS of ineffectiveness.
      But @ $250K a yr he’s now a millionaire. Another win/win for taxpayers.
      What hard work are you referring to? The hard work of scamming taxpayers with BS “virtue signaling” and “inclusivity” As someone else observed: WTF does “decolonizing our collective work.” even mean??
      There’s gotta be a battalion of writers staying up late at night whose job is to torture the English language in such a manner.
      Kira Zylstra is nothing but a hack but I’m sure WA hasn’t heard the last of her. If she doesn’t land another position (commissar?) thru her networking pals in gov’t she will be sure to file a lawsuit for discrimination.
      Count on it.

  6. I attended this conference and although I do not object to Burlesque entertainment in appropriate venues, I found this to be an in-congruent, inappropriate choice for a professional setting that involved serious topics. If it was meant to bring levity to the event, sure, ok- but it could have been toned down. It was a little over the top and based on the visual reaction of a majority of attendees including myself, evoked more cringe and disbelief, than entertainment. It seemed an ill attempt to have a class of people recognized by way of maybe inadvertently demonstrating no class. Freedom of some can and will impose on freedom of others. There’s a time and place for everything.

  7. Good grief. Have they lost their senses? And these are the humanitarians entrusted with the well being of people who are extremely vulnerable including women who have been victims of domestic violence? I’d say more people need to be suspended beyond just Ms. Zylstra.

    1. This explains why Seatle has spent 1 billion dollars on their homelessness problem with absolutely zilch improvement in the situation. If I were a taxpayer there, I would be screaming for their heads! Talk about mismanagement!

  8. I agree wholeheartedly with this very insightful comment. I recommend it be read thoroughly at least twice by everyone even marginally involved with this whole mess.

  9. From what you wrote, I think the entertainment was ill-advised. But please don’t make it about what Ms. St James does. The problem is that people who would have chosen not to see the show, and not to be touched in an erotic way may have had that forced on them. Criticism of the show should be about violating boundaries and consent. The organizers, not Ms. St. James should be held accountable for that, if in fact that was the case.

    And keep in mind that people who might have chosen to enjoy Ms. St. James dancing, including lap dancing, in the context of a venue where that is what goes on might also be very uncomfortable with it in a professional setting that included colleagues they had to work with.

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