Can Rapid Rehousing solve Seattle’s homelessness crisis? The City of Seattle’s Pathways Home report released this fall calls for moving funding away from Transitional Housing and into Rapid Rehousing as a preferred approach.
On one hand, “service models” are a wonky topic for policy makers, funders, academics and nonprofit service providers to geek out on — but these are decisions that impact the lives of potentially thousands of people experiencing homelessness in our community.
More than 250 people gathered at Town Hall Thursday evening December 8 as Solid Ground hosted a lively community forum on the topic. The panel included representatives of the City, housing service providers and academia. We intentionally made the event low-barrier to bring more voices into the discussion; the forum was free and offered ample time for public comment and questions. Moderated by KUOW’s Kate O’Connell Walters, panel members included:
- Catherine Lester, Director of Human Services for the City of Seattle
- Maria Williams, Program Manager for LifeWire, which provides housing and other services for domestic violence survivors
- Rachel Fyall, Assistant Professor at the University of Washington, who has researched Rapid Rehousing
- Tamara Bauman, Solid Ground Rapid Rehousing Case Manager
(Panelist Jalisa McGowan, who is a Rapid Rehousing program participant, was unable to attend due to weather concerns.)
Rapid Rehousing provides short-term rent subsidies to get people housed quickly, after which people are expected to assume market-rate rents. During their time receiving subsidies, people are connected to employment and support services to help them retain their housing. Typically, Rapid Rehousing provides significantly fewer supportive services than Transitional Housing.
Some key points raised during the forum:
- Rapid Rehousing is an approach that works for some people experiencing homelessness, but not for all.
- Meeting everyone’s needs will require multiple tactics, including Shelter, Rapid Rehousing, Transitional Housing and others.
- Rapid Rehousing is “out in front of the research.” We do not yet have sufficient data to evaluate the effectiveness of this model on a national or local scale.
- For the system to become more “person-centered” — responsive to the needs of people experiencing homelessness — we need to make funding more flexible rather than contractually tied to specific service models.
- Homelessness has systemic roots that are bigger than local communities can solve. We need more resources and capacity, including federal funding, to successfully end homelessness.
- In order to make the system work better, we need to do a better job bringing in the expertise and perspectives of people experiencing homelessness.
- People of color disproportionately experience homelessness in our community. Our services and systems need to do a better job addressing racial and other inequities through our services.
- Housing is a fundamental human right!
- At the end of the day, we can’t solve homelessness until we address poverty and the social and economic inequities that exist in our region.
In this video clip, an audience member ‘s question focuses the panel on social justice, racial equity and capacity:
Click here to view the Housing Forum in its entirety. This Forum is the first in a new series of community conversations Solid Ground will be hosting, and we hope to provide additional opportunities for community members to get involved. If you are interested in more information about the proposed focus groups on Rapid Rehousing mentioned last night, please email Tamara Bauman.
We believe that our community is stronger when we bring everyone together to address poverty, homelessness, racism and other injustices, and we look forward to convening those conversations. Sign up here if you want to stay informed about Solid Ground and our upcoming events, and forward this post to your family and friends to help us engage more people in these important dialogues!