Month: April 2017

King, Pierce, and Spokane Counties Launch 100-Day Challenges to Tackle Youth Homelessness

A Way Home Washington (AWHWA) today announced that communities in King, Pierce, and Spokane counties are launching 100-Day Challenges to accelerate efforts to prevent and end youth homelessness in their communities. Each region will receive support from the Rapid Results Institute (RRI) to drive toward ambitious community-identified goals over 100 days, starting April 20.

“Communities in our state are accepting the 100-Day Challenges because they want to take action now to connect youth and young adults with safe, stable housing,” said Jim Theofelis, executive director of A Way Home Washington. “Leaders from the government, philanthropic, and service provider communities are coming together to rethink how we can support young people and families, because we know preventing and ending youth homelessness is possible if we work together.”

Schultz Family Foundation and the Raikes Foundation, two philanthropic leaders with a deep commitment to addressing youth homelessness, are providing financial support for the Challenges. Rapid Results Institute will provide coaching and support to all three regions, and will be facilitating key workshops at the beginning and end of the 100-Day Challenges. RRI’s past challenges around veteran and youth homelessness have shown that the limited timeframe of 100 days provides the urgency needed to identify, innovate, and fuel effective approaches for communities.

In Washington state, more than 13,000 people between the ages of 12 and 24 lack a safe, stable place to call home. Youth homelessness affects every county in Washington state. To address this problem and better support youth, participants from communities in King, Pierce, and Spokane counties have each identified their own challenges to pursue over the course of the 100 days.

Communities in the King County region will focus on accelerating housing placements for young people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, and reducing the number of unsheltered young people in their community.

“Ensuring that every youth and young adult in our region has the opportunity to achieve their full potential starts with making sure they have a safe, warm place to call home each night,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “This partnership will build on the progress we’ve made to help more youth get into permanent housing, and work to prevent them from ever experiencing homelessness in the first place.”

About the 100-Day Challenges

The 100-Day Challenges are part of a growing national movement to prevent and end youth homelessness in America. In Austin, Cleveland, and Los Angeles, similar challenges organized by A Way Home America and RRI helped house 413 young people in just 100 days—exceeding their original Challenge. Beyond the three areas participating in the Challenges, Washington state has seen unprecedented statewide momentum over the last year to address youth homelessness. A Way Home Washington is committed to the goal of building a movement to prevent and end youth homelessness.

In the last six months, A Way Home Washington commissioned a statewide scan to better understand the scope of youth homelessness, organized a statewide listening tour with First Lady Trudi Inslee to get input from community partners, and partnered with the newly created Office of Homeless Youth to issue a report that outlines state and community solutions to address youth and young adult homelessness. Over the course of the next 100 days, A Way Home Washington and partners will be sharing profiles on social media channels to highlight those affected by and working to prevent and end youth homelessness. Follow along with the #WAChallengeAccepted hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the A Way Home Washington website.

What the Seattle Times Gets Wrong When It Argues We Shouldn’t Spend More on Homelessness

All Home Director, Mark Putnam, wrote a guest editorial for The Stranger on the need to address homelessness, with urgency, at the local level:

“The Seattle Times has been banging a familiar drum recently: Don’t increase regressive taxes, especially if government is not using its existing funding wisely.

This ignores the fact that Seattle residents’ taxes fall in the middle of the pack among King County’s 39 cities and among our country’s largest cities. Property and sales taxes, though regressive options, are the only ones available to city and county leaders in Washington State. A state income tax, an undeniably more progressive option, was opposed by the Seattle Times the last time it appeared on the ballot.

In 2016, All Home and its partners at the City of Seattle, King County and United Way launched an effort to improve the efficiency of homelessness programs, to house more people with existing resources, by conducting a third party, independent review.
The analysis confirmed that we needed to expedite and expand the changes we had already begun to make, including reducing barriers to housing and shelter (such as sobriety or criminal history), increasing funding for rental assistance, and focusing all efforts on quickly finding and keeping people in housing. The review also concluded that we have many great programs, but the sum of those programs makes for a confusing system for people experiencing homelessness to navigate.

People are resilient, they’re fighters, they’re protectors of their children and their futures. People do not want to become homeless. They want housing and jobs. Homelessness is temporary for most people, a condition, not a personality trait. A recent Seattle survey found that 93 percent of people living in tents and cars would move into housing if they could. Most said they primarily need help with rent, finding more employment (40 percent are employed), and getting mental health or substance use treatment. And 87 percent were in housing here in Washington before becoming homeless.

We now have a cohesive strategy, and are executing it with an urgency befitting the homelessness emergency. This person-centered, housing first approach is working: 7,500 households moved from homeless to housing last year, including 3,300 from temporary programs to permanent housing. That’s 50 percent more than in 2013. People are now homeless for fewer days, and fewer are returning to homelessness.

Programs like Mary’s Place, Catholic Community Services, DESC, Compass Housing, Sophia’s Way, Solid Ground and many more are seeing results, including establishing housing-focused 24/7 shelters, preventing people from losing their housing, and creatively housing those who have recently become homeless. Training for front line staff and improved County data systems are changing the way people work. Competitively-bid funding decisions are now the norm in order to receive federal, state, local or philanthropic funding.

The cost of reducing homelessness has changed in Seattle and King County in the past few years. The consultant review was based on 2013-2014 data. Rents have increased 57 percent in the past six years, six times the national rate. Just taking rent increases into account, not to mention the need to pay staff more so they can also live here, the costs to provide rental assistance to people living outside have increased significantly in four years. That number keeps rising with the cost of land, property, and rental units. Also contributing to homelessness is our underfunded state mental health system and a substance use treatment system that is not able to keep pace with the pharmaceutical industry-created opiate crisis.

The federal government is aiming to slash housing and healthcare budgets, and at the state level, House Bill 1570 (sponsored by Rep. Nicole Macri, 43rd) needs to pass through the state legislature to provide sustained revenue to address homelessness. If it does, it will help but it still will not be enough to meet the exponentially growing need.

In 2017, it has become abundantly clear that we’re going to have to address our homelessness, housing affordability and behavioral health crises locally.”

April is Fair Housing Month!

This year marks the 49th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, landmark legislation that became law on April 11, 1968.  Today, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) kicked off Fair Housing Month 2017 at its national headquarters. This year’s theme is Fair Housing Equals Opportunity, highlighting equality in housing as a foundation upon which aspirations can be achieved and affirming the Fair Housing Act’s ongoing role in confronting housing discrimination. Through an array of enforcement activities, fair housing policy initiatives, and education and outreach efforts, HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity continues to take action against individuals and housing providers that discriminate. Last year, HUD and its Fair Housing Assistance Program partner agencies received more than 8,000 complaints alleging discrimination based on one or more of the Fair Housing Act’s seven protected classes: race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.

Throughout the month, HUD and its state and local fair housing partners will organize local fair housing month celebrations, seminars, and public education events that promote the ideals of fair housing.  Locally, the King County Office of Civil Rights offers Fair Housing Workshops for Housing Providers. The 2017 training schedule can be found here.