Can We Build Our Way Out of Homelessness?

By United Way of King County Posted on April 9, 2015 In Fighting Homelessness

Recently our friends at KUOW did a week-long series on homelessness in King County. The 10-year plan To End Homelessness that our community created in 2005 is coming to an end and KUOW wanted to understand our successes and why we haven’t made more progress (you can hear the story here…)

I was one of the many people in our community that was interviewed as part of the story. Since I participated in the development of the original plan I guess the folks at KUOW felt I could offer some perspective. During the interview I said something to the effect of, “We can’t build our way out of it, we’re never going to be able to build enough housing if we don’t reduce the number of people becoming homeless.”

A number of my friends and colleagues in the homelessness sector took strong exception to the comment that we can’t build our way out of the problem. The prevailing opinion was that creating more housing was absolutely critical if we were to be successful in ending homelessness—in making it rare, brief, and a one-time occurrence. That housing really was the linchpin strategy in ending homelessness.

I think I get that part. We need more housing. But can a housing strategy alone get us to a place where we can say we’ve effectively ended homelessness? Can we build our way out of it? What about other strategies like prevention? These are critical questions as we enter into the next phase of our efforts to end homelessness.

I’ve asked 2 experts in our community to help educate me and you on the role of housing in ending homelessness. Over the next several days we’ll be posting their thoughts on housing and homelessness. I also hope that you will jump in and join the conversation. Please take a moment to comment, to post your questions, etc.

Joining our conversation will be Rachel Myers who is the Executive Director of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and Bill Hobson is the Executive Director of The Downtown Emergency Service Center.


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