Amid the Problems, There’s Progress
It’s easy, if not rational, to look at all the problems that plague King County and wonder when will progress show up. On face value, it seems as if we’re not making a dent in the homeless crisis. The poverty that begets lawlessness and crime appears to go unabated. Stories still abound about college students struggling to make ends meet, families failing to fend off hunger and the sick unable to access adequate health care.
Are there real, tangible examples that illustrate the fruits of labor from giving, volunteering, partnering and caring?
At United Way of King County, we offer an emphatic yes. Guided by work toward a racially just community where people have homes, students graduate and families are financially stable, we have implemented programs and partnered with other groups to provide food, funds, shelter and other services in real time to those in need. The fruit of our efforts can be seen countywide, particularly in communities most marginalized.
So, the next time someone says, “Why try? Things never get better,” tell them this:
- During the last Christmas and New Year’s holiday season, United Way enabled 47 people to obtain permanent housing via our Streets to Home program. We received a City of Seattle contract to use federal dollars to provide people with permanent homes, and we partnered with three of our trusted housing providers to make it happen. Also, when many of those who were given permanent housing left shelter bed spaces, they freed up 25 beds to be occupied by others experiencing homelessness. Thus far, 65% of households served with Streets to Home are BIPOC and 42% of participants are African American, and 95% of people housed through Streets to Home remain in permanent housing after six months.
- With our rental assistance work, as of December United Way and our partners have distributed $45 million to keep 5,000 households in their homes. In fact, since the start of the pandemic we have helped distribute over $97 million to 18,496 households.
- We continue to redefine what it means to receive food and resources from foodbanks. With our DoorDash home delivery, we completed 206,000 grocery deliveries in 2021. To this day, we continue to serve approximately 5,700 households weekly, representing over 20,500 individuals. More than 1,100 of those served are community/technical college students, and we launched two new culturally specific/dietary specific boxes based on client feedback: one geared towards Black/African American community (designed in partnership with the Urban Food Systems Pact in Skyway) and one geared towards clients on heart healthy, renal, and diabetic-friendly diets.
- In the fall of 2021, our Breakfast After the Bell program launched district-wide in Tacoma Public Schools, Kelso School District, and West Valley School District (Spokane) with United Way support. In addition, the Hoquiam School District, Auburn School District and Toppenish School District have also expanded their Breakfast After the Bell programs to new schools. An estimated 4,500 additional students are eating breakfast across these districts and most students impacted are of color.
- United Way continues to do broad outreach to connect households to Basic Food benefits— including radio ads, text messaging campaigns and direct mailers. In fall 2021, 485 households called the Family Food Hotline, and 227 were enrolled in Basic Food benefits.
- Our Bridge to Finish program connected 3,581 students to 25,215 financial interventions. Of all students served in the 2021-2022 school year thus far, 62% identify as first-generation, 55% identify as multi-lingual, 41% identify as a parent and 73% identify as BIPOC.
- Our Free Tax Prep work continues this year with 11 in-person assistance tax sites (all adhering to strict COVID-19 protocols) and a virtual tax site that will launch next month. United Way has partnered with AT&T and Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness to conduct outreach to people experiencing homelessness before tax filing deadlines while continuing to offer year-round tax prep services.
We will continue to make inroads with these programs and implement others to ensure that we help address King County residents’ needs. And we invite you to join us in the work; together we can steadily forge ahead in creating tangible progress for our problems.