Homelessness in Seattle: Did 60 Minutes Get It Right?

By United Way of King County, on December 11, 2019 | In News

As winter approaches, the crisis of homelessness becomes even more dangerous for the thousands of people who sleep in tents, vehicles, and on the streets of King County. The King County Medical Examiner reports that 150 homeless people have died this year already—unfortunately we are likely to see more before the year ends.

A recent 60 Minutes piece highlighted the trauma and difficulties our unhoused neighbors face in the Seattle region. It put our collective failure to provide a safe place for our neighbors to sleep on national display without giving people a lot of hope or ways to help.

Kids living in tents. People working full time who can’t afford rent. A crisis response system that is completely overwhelmed by need.

Housing is the solution to homelessness. At United Way, we believe that housing is a basic human right. We believe we should be outraged by kids living in tents—by anyone living in tents—and that we need to channel that outrage into action.

We are working with our partners day and night to address this crisis by investing in effective programs that prevent homelessness and connect people who do become homelessness with housing and jobs. We are also advocating for a more coordinated regional response system and state and federal policies that provide more resources for effective housing solutions.

While the reasons for homelessness are complex—the solution isn’t. Housing that people can afford.

Why Are People Homeless?

Solving the crisis of homelessness requires us to acknowledge the reasons why people are homeless in the first place. The lack of affordable housing tops the list. The City of Seattle’s recent announcement to invest $110M is a step in the right direction. And, we have been underinvesting in affordable housing for years and this will not be a quick fix.

The reasons people are homeless as we see it:

  • A severe lack of affordable housing
  • Racist systems (child welfare, criminal justice, education and financial) & polices that lead to homelessness
  • Stagnant wages for the lowest income earners
  • Underfunded safety net—including a lack of rental assistance
  • Lack of mental health and substance use services in Washington

We need housing that people can afford. In the last year we helped over 4,000 people access or maintain housing by helping them pay for move in costs, pay down housing debt and pay for rent. Our community needs to invest in effective housing solutions at the scale of the need. 

This holiday season we urge you to join us. Tell your friends and neighbors that you are outraged by the crisis of homelessness. Donate to help expand effective programs like Streets to Home and Home Base.  And join others like you (Emerging Leaders 365 and Change Makers) to advocate for housing justice.


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