Myth or Fact: Emergency Shelter Beds

By United Way of King County, on March 15, 2016 | In Fighting Homelessness

Myth or Fact? There are plenty of emergency shelter beds to go around.

Myth. The One-Night Count this year found 4,505 unsheltered people. There simply are not that many shelter beds in King County. So, while there may be scattered beds throughout the county that go unused on a given night, it’s a result of not having the type of shelter someone needs, where they need it – and the coordinated information to help them find it.

Are you a husband and wife recently evicted from your home? Most shelters don’t allow men and women to stay together.

Or, are you a young woman who after getting laid off, recently lost her apartment in Kent? 90% of the shelters in King County are inside Seattle city limits. So, while there might ‘plenty to go around’, there likely wouldn’t be a bed for her in Kent to sleep safely and make it to her new job the next day.

Or, you’re a family of 4 with young kids in the Renton School district. The shelter you have been staying at for two months will close at the end of winter. Moving shelters means risking getting your kids to school on a regular basis and/or switching schools mid-year.

We invest in more than 20 shelter locations around the county. This year, United Way of King County increased that investment by $150,000 to support 150 new shelter beds as well as staff support to help move people out of shelter. Those investments include:

  • More shelters serving families without kids. Our investments include extending shelter at the likes of Catholic Community Services on the eastside and Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches so that couple can stay together.
  • Additional beds in south King County. We are supporting Union Gospel Mission with 10 additional beds in Kent for women, Catholic Community Services with extending the months of operation, allowing them to serve 15 more women October – May.
  • Year-round beds for families. Increased funding to Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches provides families with shelter options year-round; our dollars moved them from a 13-week winter shelter for families and single women to year-round shelter for 55 people.

While creating enough housing is priority number one, we’re also focused on creating a coordinated entry into the system that we currently have. When all the funders and providers are working together as part of a seamless system, the single woman who needs a place to sleep will get her situation assessed and be connected with shelter that works best for her needs.

Shelters are meant to be short-term solutions and we know that the longer people stay, the more difficult it is for them to change their situation. By funding more emergency shelters with an increased investment in staff – and insisting on a coordinated entry system – we’ll help people connect more quickly to longer-term solutions.




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