All Home aims to make homeless "rare, brief and one-time" in King County
Making homelessness in King County rare is an ambitious goal, but an achievable one, according to Mark Putnam, director of All Home King County (formerly the Committee to End Homelessness). In a recent meeting at the Seattle King County REALTORS® with members of its Governmental and Public Affairs Committee, Putnam discussed the scope of homelessness and outlined his organization's vision and strategic plans.
Every $100 a month increase in average rents increases the homeless population by 15 percent, he noted, citing findings from a recent national study. "Homeless is a community problem," Putnam stated. All Home emphasizes it's been proven in Seattle and across the nation that providing housing costs less than paying all the public costs associated with someone living on the street - "and we have a stronger community when all people have a place to call home."
Data from the annual Point in Time (PITI) Count indicate more than 10,000 people in King County experienced homelessness on any given day in 2015, with nearly 40 percent of them being unsheltered. Among the homeless, about 28 percent are families with children.
All Home's director said progress is being made in some areas of addressing the issue, but in other areas the crisis has worsened.
In 2015, an estimated 7,000 households exited homelessness to permanent housing, an average of nearly 600 per month. Putnam also noted the community has succeeded in ending homelessness for almost 40,000 people since the adoption of a 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness (2005-2015).
Notably, Seattle/King County now has the third most housing for the homeless in the nation, surpassed only by New York and Los Angeles. Putnam credits this achievement to collective action to increase the available resources for those experiencing homelessness in the county.
"Our vision is that homelessness is rare in King County, racial disparities are eliminated, and if one becomes homeless, it is brief and only a one-time occurrence," Putnam told the Realtors.
All Home believes making homelessness rare will require addressing the causes of homelessness, which have myriad sources, including rent increases, the absence of strong safety nets, the economy, demographics, and an influx of people moving to a region.
Stopping homelessness before it starts is the smartest approach and is the new focus of All Home, Putnam told SKCR members. He noted some populations, such as youth exiting foster care, immigrants and refugees, and individuals exiting treatment programs experience homelessness at higher rates than the general population.
"We've learned that assisting these individuals before a crisis occurs prevents them from spiraling into homelessness," he remarked, adding "We must make the shift from a costly, crisis-oriented response to health and social problems to one that focuses on prevention, embraces recovery, and eliminates disparities."
All Home is also committed to expanding affordable and flexible housing options, particularly for very low-income households (those earning less than 30 percent of Area Median Income.) Toward that goal, it is pushing for federal, state and local policies and funding to increase housing, and it has launched the OneHome campaign, an alliance with landlords who agree to open up units in their buildings to prospective tenants "who might normally be passed over in the screening process in exchange for incentives to landlords and services to tenants that help tenants remain stably housed."
All Home is also working with local jurisdictions to enhance and expand pre-adjudication programs and sentencing alternatives to help individuals avoid a criminal history while reducing criminal recidivism. That segment includes individuals leaving institutions such as jails, foster care, treatment programs and hospitals. Putnam noted one in five people who leave prison become homeless either immediately or soon thereafter.