What are they doing about homelessness in King County?
They are coming together as never before to end homelessness throughout our region, not just continue to manage it. The Committee to End Homelessness in King County, made up of representatives from business, faith, social services, government, homeless and formerly homeless people and advocacy groups is working to implement the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness in King County. The plan calls for prevention of homelessness where possible, creation of new permanent housing, and providing supportive services to those who need them to maintain housing.
What are the priorities of the Ten-Year Plan?
There are several key elements of the plan:
- Prevent homelessness. They will work to make sure appropriate housing and supportive services are available to prevent homelessness and help people stay in their homes. Services include rent and utility assistance, job training, education assistance, health care, mental health counseling, foster care and chemical dependency treatment. This also includes working to ensure people are not discharged into homelessness from jails, hospitals or foster care.
- Help people move people rapidly from homelessness to housing. They will place homeless people as quickly as possible in permanent housing and then help them to stabilize and function on their own by providing them with the supportive services they need.
- Build the public and political will to end homelessness. They must expand our communitys commitment to ending homelessness by educating the public, tracking our successes and building on them, and establishing steady funding.
- Increase the efficiency of the existing systems. They are restructuring systems to be more efficient, coordinating services, and streamlining rules and regulations for both providers and clients.
- Measure and report outcomes. They will chart the funds coming into our homelessness systems and show how that money is being spent, and produce reports to the public on the achievement of our goals and objectives.
Who is involved?
They cannot end homelessness unless they come together as a region to say that homelessness is not acceptable and they will do something about it. A wide range of organizations and governments dedicate resources and staff to support the efforts of the committee. In fact, hundreds of people in government, social services, business and communities of faith have endorsed the plan and pledged to join the effort to end homelessness in King County.
Who is in charge of implementing the Plan?
The Committee to End Homelessness (CEH) in King County is charged with implementing the plan and ensuring that its goals and objectives are met. The CEH is comprised of government officials and leaders of the business, faith, civic communities, service providers, homeless advocates, and philanthropy groups.
- A Governing Board made up of influential community leaders provides high-level policy oversight, guides planning, coordinates funding, seeks additional resources, and offers vision and leadership for the plan.
- A Funders Group which consists of department directors and executive directors from major funders who work together to establish joint priorities, deliverables and times lines around homeless housing and services. They also coordinate annual funding through a Joint notice of Funding Availability (NOFA).
- An Interagency Council includes key partners working to end homelessness in King County whoes duties are to coordinate data collection, analysis and reporting; recommend policy direction to the Governing Board; and create ways to better serve people experiencing homelessness.
- A Consumer Advisory Council comprised of people who are currently homeless or who have experienced homelessness represents the broad interests and needs of homeless people countywide.
What is different about our Plan?
- A very broad range of partners developed it not just government. It is NOT business as usual.
- It shifts our focus from helping people live with homelessness to helping people leave homelessness. Previously, we focused on emergency services like shelter beds and food. Our plan focuses on helping people stabilize their lives by helping them to move into housing with the services they need to keep that housing and achieve self-sufficiency. It is a housing system, rather than a homeless system.
- For the first time, everyone is at the table: governments, nonprofits, the faith community, business, and homeless advocates all working together. That sort of concerted effort simply did not exist in the past.
- It includes action steps tailored to reach and serve specific homeless populations to address their unique needs: single adults (including chronically homeless), families with children, and youth/young adults.
What does it mean to end homelessness?
Ending homelessness does not mean that no one becomes homeless. Rather, it means preventing homelessness as much as possible and ensuring that those people who do become homeless are quickly helped to return to long-term housing, rather than being left for extended periods in emergency shelter.
Is it really possible to end homelessness?
Yes. Ending homelessness does not mean that people no longer become homeless. It means that They prevent homelessness as much as possible, and when an individual or family becomes homeless they help them move rapidly back into housing – no languish in shelters or on the street. This is a goal they can meet, even in this recession, if they can develop and sustain the funding and the public and political will. Promising best practices such as the housing first model, intensive case management for people with complex needs, and coordinated services for people with co-occurring disorders are all demonstrating success. It is going to be hard, they need to focus, and they will have to make tough decisions. A strong spirit of partnership now exists. they need to sustain and build upon this.
9,500 is a lot of housing units. How do they produce that many?
The Ten-Year Plan calls for building or sustaining 9,500 units. Yes, that is an ambitious goal. They are building and opening new units but they know they need to move faster to achieve our goal of 950 per year. By the end of 2007 they had increased our system by 1,449 units, with another 1,411 in the pipeline. This is not as many as they need, but it is a good start. It is true that getting units, particularly in a very, very expensive and tight market is one of the main issues, but they are confident that they can succeed! They are grateful to the State Legislature for additional housing funding in the 2007 and 2008 sessions and will work to get new units completed and open for residency as soon as possible.
What does the plan say about Tent Cities?
The Plan neither promotes nor disapproves of tent cities. Rather, it acknowledges that tent cities are an emergency response to the greater problem of homelessness in King County, and a safer alternative to life on the streets. Once safe, decent and affordable housing is available for all our citizens, tent cities will not be necessary.
Why should citizens contribute and participate?
Homelessness affects all of us in King County, whether or not they know someone who has been homeless or have experienced homelessness ourselves. Solving the problem will take a concerted and collaborative effort from all of our citizens. King County is known for its vision, compassion and wealth of resources. It is unacceptable in a region such as this, that almost 25,000 of our fellow citizens will experience at least one episode of homelessness each year. Every single person they can either prevent from becoming homeless or move from homelessness into housing, is one more life we have changed for the better.