We Must Unite To End Homelessness

By United Way of King County, on April 4, 2018 | In Fighting Homelessness

Seattle’s homelessness crisis is unacceptable and requires bold, urgent action.

This isn’t an Amazon problem or a Starbucks problem. This isn’t a problem of low-performing service providers or people looking for handouts. It isn’t the problem of government waste. There are numerous reasons why 5,000 people will sleep on our streets tonight: insufficient affordable housing stock, a poor mental health system, racial injustice, a weak approach to homelessness prevention, little cash assistance to help people move out of poverty—the list goes on.

This is our collective problem—and our collective responsibility to our fellow human beings.  The only way to solve it is to united for an effective, comprehensive response to the crisis of homelessness. That means philanthropic and government resources must invest in solutions that scale with the problem. That means holding each other accountable for results.

At United Way, that’s what we’re working to do each and every day. Since the Resource Exchange, we’ve accelerated our work to address homelessness:

  • We’ve raised $4 million to take our Streets To Home and Jobs Connect programs to scale. We know tackling homelessness requires housing and income.
  • Along with our public funding partners and fellow One Table participants, we’re advocating for a new governance structure to address homelessness. We know All Home isn’t working as it should. Let’s replace it with a structure that can decisions about funding, policies and solutions— and have clear lines of accountability for results.
  • We’re teaming with Starbucks, Mary’s Place, and Wellspring to expand the Resource Exchange model to help unsheltered families. We will hold four events that will connect hundreds of families experiencing homelessness to housing and income.
  • And we are listening. We are listening to our neighbors experiencing homelessness, our peers from around the country, and you. We want to hear what you think we should do to end the homelessness crisis.

Our colleagues in California have models we can replicate. The United Way of Greater Los Angeles  launched a coalition to address homelessness called Everyone In, and Cisco recently donated $50 million to address homelessness in the Silicon Valley. This is what it looks like to for a community to unite to end homelessness. It’s time for public and private partners in King County to come together in a similar way.

March 20’s United Way Community Resource Exchange was a start. Hundreds of volunteers, service providers and local governments helped 1,300 people experiencing homelessness access housing, jobs, haircuts, public benefits and other critical resources.  There, local leaders discussed the challenges and promising solutions for solving the crisis.  This is King County at its best – uniting to end homelessness.

We’ve also been saddened by the rhetoric about homelessness caused by the debate about the Progressive Revenue Task Force’s recommended employee hours tax.  Debate about solving the homelessness crisis is good, but we must unite our community, not divide it. But since the Resource Exchange, we’ve been inspired by the life changing stories of people getting into housing and jobs. And, as always, we’re encouraged by the people reaching out to help by volunteering, donating money or advocating for change.


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