Reducing Family Homelessness
Addressing family homelessness was one of the first challenges the foundation took on. Between 2000 and 2008, our Sound Families Initiative helped build more than 1,450 transitional homes for families with children in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. As we learned more about homelessness, we determined that transitional housing wasn’t enough, and that systemic changes and more flexible social services were also needed.
Since 2008, in the same three counties, we have been working with Building Changes to improve the crisis response system with an approach that recognizes families’ innate strengths, fosters collaboration, streamlines government systems, improves data, and uses resources more efficiently.
We follow three proven principles to guide our work:
- Prevention and diversion, including short-term, flexible assistance tailored to each family’s needs, such as landlord mediation; help with overdue rent and utility bills; and emergency food, clothing, childcare, and transportation.
- Coordinated entry, which allows families to make just one phone call to access housing and support services.
- Rapid re-housing to place families in permanent housing as soon as possible—reducing the length of time in and higher costs of emergency and transitional shelter.
Since 2000, our foundation has invested over $175 million in building affordable housing, improving data to better understand who is homeless and for how long, creating a coordinated system to access services, supporting social service providers, and getting families into permanent housing as soon as possible. Independent evaluations by Westat show that these interventions are working.
We are also integrating our family homelessness and education work, through partnerships like Schoolhouse Washington. Nearly 40,000 of Washington’s public-school students experience homelessness—enough to fill 600 school buses. Housing instability profoundly affects students’ health and education, as well as the ability of parents and caregivers to provide economic, social, and emotional support. Linking school systems with public housing authorities and social services means better, more coordinated, more stable support for students and families, and that translates into better educational outcomes.
Homelessness is a complex issue affected by income inequality, job options, rising rents and the availability affordable housing, and it has become more visible than ever in our local community. It’s also a problem we can solve, one step at a time. Working together, we believe it’s possible to make sure that every family has a safe, stable place to call home.