Helping Hands

The Committee to End Homelessness in King County was formed in 2005 and encompasses the many agencies that work with the homeless. The Committee started out with a 10-year plan to eradicate homelessness from the county. While some significant progress was made in providing additional housing the Committee didn’t get even close to their goal. In fact, homelessness in King County has dramatically increased since the formation of the Committee, causing the CEH to explore new options for reaching their goal.

The first step the Committee is taking is a name change. Another step being taken is to have a new communications strategy. Plans are afoot to hire a communications consultant, with an estimated cost of between $50K and $75K for a 5 month contract. While the Committee is credited with making some definite improvements the rising rate of homelessness in King County is concerning stakeholders, elected officials and some members of the community. The increase in those living on the street or in temporary shelter is estimated to be as much as 21 percent, according to a count taken one night in January 2015. During the count an estimated 10,000 people were found to be homeless, equating to an increase of 8 percent compared to a count taken in 2014.

Mark Putnam, director of CEH and one of three administrators, states that this change in plan is by no means an admission of defeat. In fact, the opposite is true. Putnam went on to add that the ten year goal to end homelessness in King County had been unrealistic, as the reality is that no community has ever been able to achieve 0% homelessness.

Putnam advises that the County is facing a shortage in funding for short-term housing and shelters due to money being directed towards what is often referred to as “permanent supportive housing” and other supportive services such as job training and mental health counseling. He went on to say that there is certainly great value in providing such services but that they are expensive and do not address the needs of those living on the street during the winter because there are no beds available in shelters. Putnam also advised that half of the people homeless in King County today are newly homeless, and many have jobs but do not make enough money to adequately support themselves.

Putnam said that CEH is only too aware of the grave shortage of shelter beds in comparison to the growing demand, and is trying to provide alternative short-term housing to traditional shelters. He said that they ask the homeless what they can do to help them get shelter immediately and whether there are any other needs they have that the Committee can try to help with them. Putnam says that the Committee provides financial assistance in order to provide families with motel accommodation and set them on the road to more permanent housing, such assistance coming from private funding. Putnam estimates the average cost of providing such assistance is $1300 for a family, but that by providing such assistance it reduces the strain on shelters and gives people a way to stay off the streets.

Sadly, despite their best intentions and efforts, the combined forces of the CEH were not enough to end homelessness in King County. They weren’t in 2005 when the Committee was formed and it wasn’t 10 years later. Putnam expressed sadness at the inconsistency in the caring attitude of local government towards people who are homeless, stating that he believed that if a large number of people were suddenly forced to sleep on the street due to a natural disaster, the governor would have directed a state of emergency to insure adequate measures were taken to provide assistance with temporary housing.

The Committee to End Homelessness is just as determined to do everything within their power to address the needs of the homeless in King County today as it was back in 2005 when first formed. With the growing rate of homelessness the Committee’s assistance is needed even more today than it was 10 years ago, but having learned from mistakes made in the early days the Committee will be looking to be more effective in the future.


U.S. HOMELESSNESS ASSISTANCE ORGANIZATIONS


The United States, while being considered a wealthy country in comparison to many others in the world, faces a growing need for assistance for the homeless. As the economy forces more and more people to give up their homes to live in their vehicles or on the street, resources to provide assistance are being stretched to the limit, with the number of people requiring temporary shelter far outstripping the number of beds available. Many organizations do their best to provide assistance for those requiring temporary shelter, a hot meal and other services.

NCHThe National Coalition for the Homeless – The NCH is a network of people nationwide who have either been homeless or are currently homeless, community and faith-based service providers, activists, and other community-minded individuals with a single aim to eradicate homelessness and providing immediate assistance to those currently homeless, as well as protecting their civil rights. The NCH was formed over 30 years ago to get both local and state organizations to work together to help the homeless get access to affordable housing. The NCH welcomes input and participation from those who have experienced homelessness firsthand.

Volunteers of AmericaVolunteers of America – The aim of Volunteers of America is to put an end to homelessness through helping those already homeless as well as offering services that prevent people from becoming homeless. The organization works to help people facing eviction, provide emergency assistance and help with transitional housing until able to get them into more permanent and affordable housing. Once the organization offers assistance they follow through until the homeless person(s) are able to become self-sufficient again. The organization is aware that providing housing is not enough to end homelessness, so endeavor to provide a wide range of supportive services also, and is responsible for helping over 2 million homeless people every year.

HELP U.S.A.HELP U.S.A. – This organization was found in 1986 on the premise that every person in the United States deserves safe, stable housing. HELP runs programs in homelessness prevention, offers emergency and transitional housing/shelter, and builds and offers permanent rental properties. HELP believes that the most effective way to eradicate homelessness is to provide services that prevent people from becoming homeless before it happens, as it is more humane and is cheaper than the cost of helping someone after they have become homeless. For those already homeless the organization provides transitional housing until they are able to get the person into more permanent accommodations. They provide services for both children and adults.

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Causes of homelessness

There are many reasons people become homeless, and the combination of factors that lead to homelessness are different for every individual. Some of the factors that contribute to homelessness for youth, single adults, and families in their community are described here. This knowledge has been used by the Committee to End Homelessness in King County and its subcommittees to identify the key areas of focus in their efforts to address homelessness through the Ten-Year Plan and the annual CEH work plans. [...]

Where to Get Help

Information on a range of services, including shelter, food and other needs, is available by phone or the Internet. What kinds of services are there? Help finding housing, food, donated furniture, transportation, mental health or substance abuse treatment, baby clothes and diapers, employment and job training, low-cost legal aid, and much more. The 2-1-1 Community Information Line is a one-stop resource center for a range of assistance programs in and around King County. [...]

Scope of Homelessness

No person in this county should go to bed hungry or without a safe place to live, and while government, congregations, social service agencies, and hundreds of volunteers are working every day to feed and house those most in need, more help and solutions are still needed.

King County Executive Ron Sims - Proclamation on Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

Get Involved

Nothing felt so good as the first time I walked into my new apartment and locked the door behind me. I didn't know what a relief that would be.

formerly homeless person

Making progress toward ending homelessness in King County. 1811 Eastlake took 75 of the very hardest to serve people, who on average had been homeless 31 of the 36 months prior to moving in, and through supported housing, reduced their emergency system use by more than $2.5 million in one year.