Interested in the thinking behind how we’re working to end homelessness in the Seattle area? Lauren McGowan, United Way’s Sr. Director of Ending Homelessness & Poverty, sheds some light on the planning and strategy behind the investments we make each year.
Goal: 50% reduction in the number of unsheltered people in the annual count
That’s a bold goal. Especially when you consider the 2017 Point-in-Time Count found 11,643 people in King County without a permanent place to call home. These 11,643 men, women, children, veterans and seniors are our neighbors who deserve a safe place to rest, shower and dream.
Our neighbors deserve a home.
Despite the robust economy that benefits many people in our region, homelessness continues to be a crisis due to rising costs of housing, limited capacity of our mental health system and a growing opioid epidemic.
We know that we do not have the power to control housing costs, nor can we stop the influx of opioid usage, but we cannot let that be an excuse to back down from this crisis. Instead we focus our resources on the pieces of this problem that we can fix.
The Role of United Way of King County
In order to reduce the number of people living outdoors by 50%, we are:
- Focusing on programs that connect people to housing (Streets to Home) and jobs (Jobs Connect).
- Aligning our investments with these proven recommendations from the SWAP and Poppe reports.
- Reducing racial inequities. An over-representation of 55% of individuals experiencing homelessness identify as people of color. This compares to just 35.3% of King County’s population being people of color.
What will end homelessness look like in 2018?
Streets to Home will help 1,600 people access housing.
- Increase the reach of our Streets to Home program to include finding housing quickly for homeless youth.
- Deploy AmeriCorps members to divert people from the shelter system into housing.
- Invest in programs that rapidly re-house people. At REWA this looks like providing up to six months of both financial and intensive case management support as someone gets the tools to change the pattern permanently.
- Increase access to housing by influencing and investing in a system that quickly connects people experiencing homelessness with available units.
Jobs Connect will increase income for 1,500 people experiencing homelessness.
- Invest $2 million so we can increase the number of people who find stable employment through Jobs Connect.
- Support people in obtaining jobs by meeting basic needs (showers, clothing, etc.) so they can show up ready to work.
- Engage more employers to increase the number of available jobs.
Homelessness will be rare. If it occurs it will be brief and one-time.
- Invest in outreach and engagement for unsheltered people. Understanding each situation allows us to more effectively provide solutions for long-term success.
- Support Coordinated Entry for All to ensure people have fair and equal access to housing and assistance.
- Provide effective low-barrier shelter programs that quickly move people out of homelessness.
- Provide housing for the most vulnerable including chronically homeless people, young adults and domestic violence survivors.
Do you want to support this approach to end homelessness in King County? Join us.