Emily Heffter of the Seattle Times recently wrote that “King County’s homeless families await help, as backlog grows”. She is right. Tonight we will have too many kids without a safe place to rest their head, do their homework, eat a hot meal, or call home. Homelessness is a crisis for these families and is unacceptable in a community like ours.
Our shelters are full, poverty is growing, and affordable housing is scarce. While we can’t solve all of these problems tonight – I believe we can and must take action to make sure no child sleeps on the streets of King County. United Way has joined with community partners to create an urgent response to the crisis of unsheltered kids. I am optimistic we can make sure no child sleeps on the streets of King County. Here’s why:
- Our system is now coordinated. Yes, Family Housing Connection has a back-log – we have too many homeless families and too few housing resources. While we work on developing new housing resources FHC provides one-stop access for families and allows our community to prioritize the most vulnerable.
- Every day, hundreds of families are housed in area shelters, transitional housing, and permanent housing units. They are served by smart, talented, compassionate people who are working to move families out of homelessness. The City of Seattle will help expand the emergency response system for homeless families this spring.
- Families are resilient. Homelessness among families is typically not a long-term experience. About 75% who enter shelter are able to quickly exit with little or no assistance and never return. Knowing this allows us to better target families with the appropriate level of service.
- We know what it takes to move families out of homelessness. We now have data from across the country that shows us how to make more progress with less cost. This is why our community is investing $3 million to rapidly house and stabilize 350 families.
- A new program called Diversion is preventing homelessness for people seeking shelter by helping them identify immediate alternate housing arrangements and, if necessary, connecting them with services and financial assistance to help them return to permanent housing.
- New partners are stepping up. On Sunday, January 26th The Faith Community is coming together to harness the capacity of King County congregations to rapidly move homeless, unsheltered families into safety. Together we will discuss shared housing models and opportunities for landlord engagement.
Through the Family Homelessness Initiative, area funders have mobilized new resources to reduce the number of homeless families in King County. Now we all need to dig deeper, stretch ourselves, and ask “What can I do to make sure no child sleeps on the streets?”.