No Seattle head tax, now what?

By United Way of King County, on September 12, 2018 | In Fighting Homelessness

Seattle said no to head tax. What’s next? We’re hearing this: Companies and individuals will say yes to something that works—something that moves people from homeless to housed and does so efficiently. Here are four strategies we’re saying yes to with our donors to truly help end the homelessness crisis.

After Head Tax No’s, 4 Next Steps to Say Yes To

1. Scale up housing & income work

Our Jobs Connect program gets people jobs, the tools they need to work, and the chance build their income. See how it changes lives, like in Justin’s story. At our spring Community Resource Exchange event, the jobs area was the hot spot, with Tamara and others getting Amazon warehouse jobs on the spot. Jobs Connect was most recently highlighted in GeekWire and has grown every year.

Streets to Home, another United Way program fueled by your support, catches people like Aeshia and her son to get them back on their feet as quickly as possible.

These programs are working very well—partly because they work with individuals, rather than trying to force a one-solution-fits-all approach. So let’s keep them growing and reaching people who need them.

2. Stop the inflow of people becoming homeless

Sometimes all it takes is help with one month’s rent to get someone by until their finances get back on track. Preventing homelessness—looking at who is homeless and systemic tracks into homelessness—is key in ending it.

As shared on our blog by United Way’s Sr. Director of Ending Homelessness and Poverty Lauren McGowan:

Did you know that people of color are disproportionately experiencing homelessness? 29% of the county’s homeless population is black, compared with 6% of the county’s total population. 14% is Hispanic or Latino, compared with 9% of the population.
We will not solve this unless we prevent people of color from becoming homeless. We need a comprehensive strategy for working with local systems—like hospitals, foster care and jails—to prevent people from being discharged into homelessness.

3. Add to emergency shelter

The City of Seattle and King County together will fund 600 more shelter beds, and United Way of King County, thanks to donors like you, will fund another 600.

1,200 doesn’t seem like much against the 12,112 who are homeless, as seen in this year’s Count Us In. Except those 1,200 beds will serve 2,400 people per year, and that’s a number that starts to make sense against the Count Us In numbers.

4. Find innovative ways to do affordable housing

Our region has two of the fastest-growing metro areas in the nation—Seattle/Bellevue/Everett at No. 2 and Tacoma/Lakewood at No. 10. 1,100 people move here each week. You know by the cranes poking through our skyline that apartments and condos are being built about as fast as a kid builds Lego towers. But how many of those rents are within reach?

Questions about affordable housing that we need to grapple with, and take stances and then action on with all homeless funders and donors together: Is affordable housing a zoning issue? A “not in my backyard” issue? A red tape issue?

With your help, we are taking on these strategies and making real progress. And we’re not done yet. The funding that would have come from the Seattle head tax would have helped. But if it’s not the funding answer for our community, let’s keep talking and agreeing on what is.

Read our homelessness FAQ for where we stand on encampments, tiny houses and more.


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