Making Homelessness Rare Begins With Prevention

By United Way of King County, on November 17, 2016 | In Fighting Homelessness

We know that the best way to end homelessness is to keep it from happening in the first place. We know that the reasons people are at risk of being homeless are as varied as the people themselves. Our approach to prevention is multi-pronged in order to maximize our investments—and keep people in stable housing and out of the shelter system.

What’s working?

Eviction Prevention. Last year, we helped 4,591 people stay in their homes. That includes helping people pay their rent if they’re on the brink of eviction.

Recently, James had a period of no income after an illness. He fell behind on paying rent for his two-bedroom apartment, where he lives with his two sons.

In situations like this, our partner agencies have case managers on the ground. For the short-term, they can write checks directly to landlords to keep people in their homes. Then they can support people like James with a long-term plan to regain stability.

Safe Place. 69 youth on the edge of homelessness got immediate help last year through Safe Place. Safe Place is a network of hundreds of spots in King County where youth in distress can go for help with shelter or reconnecting with family.

Streets to Home. Our newest program for ensuring homelessness is rare is Streets to Home. It helped hundreds of people in its pilot phase. We’ve now expanded it, focusing on people who have just transitioned into homelessness, living on the street—and are not in the shelter system.

This program is an individual approach. Outreach workers assess each individual’s situation and have discretionary dollars to help people get back into housing.

What needs work?

Our investments in this area have been reduced over time and had become too low. This year, after a successful pilot of Streets to Home, we nearly doubled our investment in making homelessness rare to $1.1 million. Recent studies show that diverting people from the emergency shelter system is key to our community’s success in reducing the number of unsheltered people.

Read on for overall approach to ending homelessness and how this prevention work helps make sure that homelessness is rare, brief and one-time.


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