The pandemic has ushered in a stark reality for many facing employment loss and housing insecurity during COVID-19. King County’s 2.1.1 Crisis Connections, the hotline for health and human services in King County, has received a monthly average of over 3,100 requests for housing support since the outbreak and associated closures in March 2020.
The risk of homelessness and severe rent burden – defined by HUD as when households pay more than 50% of their income toward housing – has also jumped significantly since the pandemic hit: over 81,000 renters ¹ in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metro Area are not caught up on last month’s rent payments, representing millions of dollars in rental assistance need.
With the threat of housing loss becoming real for so many residents throughout King County, Solid Ground’s Housing Stability Project (HSP), a network of community organizations and public funders, offers a tangible solution for people facing housing insecurity from the recent public health, economic, and social crises.
Reaching more renters
This winter, Bellevue, Renton, and Auburn have leveraged King County’s funding for the program by granting HSP funds through the Human Service Funding Collaborative, allowing our network to reach more renters through case managers with strong cultural and community ties. Bellevue has been a long-time funder (approximately $55k per year), while Auburn and Renton have newly invested $55k and $7.5k, respectively, in HSP. Our program continues to serve residents in each of those cities as areas outside of Seattle experience more and more housing insecurity.
HSP prevents housing loss, displacement, and eviction through time-limited rental assistance and case management. Individuals and families at risk of eviction call the 2.1.1 hotline, and if they meet all criteria for HSP, are then referred directly to one of the 10 community-based partner providers in our network that have available funding.
Once paired with a case manager in HSP’s network of service providers, participants receive rental assistance funds and case management to meet their needs. HSP provides quick turnaround – after HSP connects clients to a case manager, a response is guaranteed within 24 hours – and direct access that prevents the tiresome cycle of calls that many people have to go through to gain access to resources.
According to a representative survey of 11,751 people experiencing homelessness in King County in the 2020 Point In Time Count,² some of the most common issues in accessing services included not knowing where to go for help (28% of respondents) and not hearing back after applying for services (20%). HSP has long-established relationships with a variety of partners, often with their own funding to leverage with the network’s support – but HSP is unique in its ability to provide a larger grant than most agencies can with their in-house funds.
The application process integrates a case management session where participants work with a case manager to make a budget and action plan toward the creation of a long-term plan for housing security. The HSP program leverages other sources of funding to cover a greater percentage – or all – of what people owe in rental arrears, thereby preventing the need for participants to coordinate grouping together smaller amounts of assistance from multiple organizations, which can be more difficult to access.
A real difference in renters’ lives
HSP makes the difference for people like Sarah (not her real name), a woman in her 70s who has lived in her apartment for close to 10 years. She called the Solid Ground Hotline recently seeking assistance to pay on her past due rent. She shared that she had been able to keep up with the rental payments with help from family, although due to COVID-19, family members lost work and she had fallen multiple months behind on rent.
Solid Ground Case Manager Barb Hart negotiated with the landlord to reduce Sarah’s balance by 15%, leveraging funding from the City of Bellevue and private donations. Sarah was able to pay rent, remains housed today, and expressed gratitude for this support: “Barb was phenomenal, she truly helped me and I was extremely happy with the service.”
HSP prioritizes services to people who are disproportionately impacted by housing instability, including Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC); seniors; veterans; and people living with disabilities. Last year, HSP ensured 410 households (1,178 individuals) remained stably housed, with 49.6% self-identifying as African American, 2.8% Asian, 8.5% Multiracial, 3% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and 31% White – and 13% identifying their ethnicity as Hispanic/Latino.
HSP is a strong network of funders, service providers, and people. We ensure culturally competent and responsive services by meeting four times a year to coordinate and share resources and best practices, and attending annual training in anti-racism, trauma-informed care, mental health first aid, and/or motivational interviewing. The HSP network offers a regionally coordinated yet community-specific housing approach. As we navigate this next stage of COVID-19 response, we recognize programs like HSP are more crucial than ever to support our community and stem the tide of households being pushed into housing insecurity and homelessness.
HSP partners and their primary service areas include the organizations listed below. If you are in need of assistance, please reach out directly to 2.1.1 instead of these individual organizations (except for veterans who should go directly to the King County Veterans Program).
- Catholic Community Services – Bellevue and Kent
- First Place – Seattle
- Hopelink – Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Sno-Valley (Carnation), and Shoreline
- Maple Valley Food Bank – Maple Valley
- Multi-Service Center – Kent and Federal Way
- Valley Cities – Auburn and mobile throughout South King County
- Vashon Youth and Family Services – Vashon
- YWCA – Seattle and Renton
- Solid Ground – Seattle and mobile throughout the County
- King County Veterans Program – Seattle and Tukwila
- Week 19 Household Pulse Survey: December 9 – December 21
- 2020 Count Us In: Seattle/King County Point-in-Time Count of Individuals Experiencing Homelessness
For more info about Solid Ground’s King County Housing Stability Project (KCHSP), contact Theresa Curry Almuti, Homelessness Prevention Manager, at email@example.com.