Take It From United Way: Homelessness Is Solvable
We are less than a dozen days away from the annual, one-week campaign that draws attention to the nation’s crises of hunger and homelessness. And while there were undoubtedly good intentions behind National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week when it was launched in 1975, its one-week time allotment seems a bit outdated, if not counterintuitive.
Given the reach and the breadth of the crisis, when are we not aware of hunger and homelessness?
This year, perhaps we should ratchet up both the campaign with a give-a-care clause: Make up your mind—throughout the month, if not the remainder of the year—to get involved in at least one of the many programs throughout King County that are working tirelessly to address the homelessness crisis and could surely use your help.
National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is November 12-20
At United Way of King County, we have two programs that address the crisis:
Home Base focuses on prevention, helping people avoid eviction via rental assistance. To date, we have disbursed more than $120 million to help more than 20,000 people stay in their homes.
Streets to Home is a program that works with people experiencing homelessness to set them on a path of upward mobility by quickly getting them into housing and connecting them with employment so they can afford to stay there. Over the past year alone, United Way has worked with nearly a dozen service providers to help 540 families move from the streets or shelter to permanent housing. And 95 percent of those who received housing from Streets to Home were still housed six months later.
Streets to Home and Home Base undoubtedly made a difference for those determined to get off the streets—as well as those committed to assisting them. Just ask Wayne Wilson, United Way community impact manager for homelessness and housing. During a recent United Way Eat, Drink & Be Generous event, Wilson spoke about the success of both programs, but namely Streets to Home, which he said has been a godsend to folks on the streets simply because they do not make enough money to maintain housing.
Wilson pointed specifically to a recipient of Streets to Home dollars who was able to get back on his feet because of the program.
“Marjhiq came to us very new to homelessness,” said Wilson, “and he just didn’t know what to do. He lost his job soon after the pandemic, so there was a gap there. Often people who are new to homelessness don’t know where to find any resources. Marjhiq found his way to United Way, and we reached out to one our service providers.
“They first started by giving John a place where he can park his car and live safely,” Wilson added. “Soon after, Marjhiq was able to get food, water and hygiene. The cool thing about this story was that Marjhiq had education, and he was a person who just fell off the edge when he shouldn’t have. But Marjhiq was able to get a job that paid him over $50,000 a year. Eventually, he was able to find housing.”
United Way, Wilson said, provided Marjhiq with $100 gas cards to travel to job interviews and $950 to move into a small apartment unit. “For the cost of about $1,000, we were able to meet him where he was, find out what he needed and allow him to move into permanent housing. It’s now been a year since Marjhiq received our services, and I reached out to him, and he’s still housed, still employed. He’s able to save money and he’s looking forward to his next step in both his career and his housing.”
Marjhiq and the thousands of people who live on streets or in cars or shelters in King County don’t need more people to be aware of their plight. They need folks to see past their numbers and embrace their humanity—to demonstrate the dogged determination that it’s going to take to end this crisis.
“Homelessness is solvable,” said Wilson. “No matter what you hear, no matter what you think, no matter what you see on the street, homelessness is solvable. It’s solvable when we decide as a community that we are going to create enough spaces and places for all people to live in a safe, clean environment.”