But, in all the debate about which is more critically needed, emergency shelter or long-term housing, we have lost track of quiet efforts at preventing homelessness that have been amazingly successful at keeping folks off the streets and out of the system. The 10-Year Plan has sparked development of about 4,000 units of long-term housing–a combination of repurposed units, new units and vouchers. Still, the fact is that the number of people homeless in Seattle-King County on any given night has increased.
The 2009 One Night Count performed by the Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness documented 6,134 men, women and children living in our shelters and transitional housing programs, 2,827 living outside on streets, in doorways, in cars and other areas, and another 459 turned away from programs that had no room at the inn. That totals 9,420 homeless folks counted on a given night in January 2009. No one expects the 2010 count to turn up a smaller census.
We clearly need more emergency facilities in the region and more long-term housing for people who have fallen into homelessness. We also need to recognize that but for the efforts of a quiet program called the Housing Stability Project, we would likely have another 1,600 or more folks homeless in Seattle and King County.
Housing Stability makes one-time loans and/or grants to homeowners and tenants in danger of eviction or foreclosure due to short-term financial difficulties. It also provides loans or grants to homeless families and individuals who need assistance moving to permanent housing, and limited assistance for other types of moves.
A successful outcome for the program is when a family or individual maintains their permanent housing for 12 months after receiving assistance. Fully 93% of the 672 households served in 2008 maintained their permanent residence–which prevented over 1,600 people from becoming homeless in 2009!
In 2009, Housing Stability served 881 households, comprised of 2,384 individuals, which is a 31% increase in the number of households served compared to 2008. Even if outcomes dip to a 90% success rate, the program will help prevent homelessness for over 2,000 men, women and children in the coming year!
Among the households served in 2009, over 250 represent veterans, which is a 100% increase over the prior year.