3 Things That Are Working to Fight Homelessness

By United Way of King County, on November 1, 2019 | In Fighting Homelessness, News, Racial Equity

Next week marks four years since Seattle declared a state of emergency for the homelessness crisis. Yet, you likely still see evidence of it every day: tents along the highway, parked cars with towels hanging in the windows to create some sort of privacy, someone experiencing their ‘rock bottom’ in a doorway. It can be daunting.   

Last year, more than 22,000 households in King County (30,000 people) experienced an episode of homelessness. We know that preventing people from falling into homelessness in the first place will help solve the problem.  

Last year, 62% of people evicted in Seattle went straight into homelessness.  

Source: Losing Home, The Human Cost of Eviction in Seattle

With donor support, we’ve been providing eviction prevention services for six months. In that time, 414 families have received the support they need to avoid eviction. 

Families facing eviction can receive help through Home Base at the Kent and Seattle court houses. Here’s how it works:   

  1. Legal Representation. King County Bar Association recruits volunteer attorneys to represent clients who have been served an eviction notice. Tenants with lawyers have a better chance of reaching agreements with landlords so they can stay in their homes—and avoid having an eviction on their record, which leads to increased homelessness.   
  2. One-time emergency funds to pay rent. For years, volunteer attorneys have been donating their time to help clients, but without the financial assistance to pay late fees and get caught up on past rent, results for tenants were limited.  
  3. Support of on-site social worker. It’s important to assess whether tenants are in a sustainable living situation. Does their income support their rent? Do they qualify for other assistance that could relieve the cost burden?   

The combination of these three things has been powerful. Nearly 1,300 families received legal assistance in the last six months—and even if they didn’t avoid eviction, many were able to stay in their homes longer (an average of 43 days) while they came up with a plan.

Racial Equity Matters

Eviction is a leading cause of homelessness, and one of the most effective ways to address homelessness is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

According to the latest data, more than half of eviction filings were against people of color, and African Americans are 4.5 times more likely to get evicted from their homes. These groups are less likely to have benefited from multigenerational inherited wealth, they may have experienced displacement due to gentrification and are more likely to experience employment and housing discrimination.

Home Base works to offset this disproportionality. In the first six months, 68% of people served were people of color.

Thanks to founding partners Seattle Mariners and King County Bar Association and title sponsor Microsoft for making this work possible. Wellspring & Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle are the key services providers working to keep families in their homes. Your donation can help serve even more families.  


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