Our Mission is to End Homelessness
Homelessness is too often misunderstood and overlooked. We strive to educate and change public opinion about homelessness in order to build the political will to end it.
How many people are homeless in Washington State?
On any given night, it is estimated that almost 23,000 people are homeless in Washington State. During the 2007-2008 school year, 18,670 K-12 Washington State public school children were homeless with their families. Over the course of 2008, it is estimated that 87,000 people faced homelessness. Over the course of 2009, it is estimated that over 102,000 people will face homelessness in our state. See these numbers in perspective.
What are the causes of homelessness?
Here are just some of the causes of homelessness in Washington. See an overview of who was homeless in January of 2009 during the point in time count of homeless persons. (Data courtesy of the Washington State Department of Commerce.)
Hundreds of thousands of households simply do not earn enough to afford housing. Even though Washington State has the highest minimum wage in the country, it is still not enough to afford adequate market rate housing in many parts of Washington. Families are being forced to choose between paying rent and putting food on the table. Learn what it is like to survive at the federal poverty level by watching PovertyUSA.
Fleeing Domestic Violence
A significant number of families experiencing homelessness are single parents fleeing abuse with their children. For women who have been stay at home moms, finding a family-wage job to support themselves and their children is nearly impossible.
Without treatment, medication or family supports, mental illnesses can be debilitating. People experiencing debilitating, untreated mental illness cannot maintain employment. Without employment, they cannot maintain housing.
Alcohol and Substance Abuse
Addiction is a powerful thing and it can affect anyone, regardless of income. If a person cannot afford treatment, and do not have a stable place to call home, what chance do they have of recovery?
The vast majority of former prisoners are eager to start over when they are released from prison. However, employers who will employ them are scarce, and landlords who will rent to them are scarcer still. Without a stable home, returning to crime and to prison is almost certain.
Aging Out of Foster Care
Each year, hundreds of youth age out of the foster care system. Sadly, many of them end up homeless because they lack the support system and life skills to live independently. How many of us were able to live completely independently at age 18?
These are only some of the reasons people become homeless. All too often, people experience a combination of these traumas.
What is being done to end homelessness in Washington State?
In 2005, the legislature passed the Homelessness Housing and Assistance Act, requiring each county in Washington to develop a plan to end homelessness. Housing and service providers across the state implement their plans using a continuum of housing options to meet the unique needs of the people they serve.
- Homelessness Prevention: Rent and utility assistance, first and last months rent, credit repair, moving costs, etc.
- Emergency Shelter: Up to 90 days of shelter.
- Transitional Housing: Up to 24 months of subsidized housing and supportive services like counseling, child care, employment training, budgeting and asset building.
- Permanent Supportive Housing: Ongoing subsidized housing with supportive services.
- Subsidized or Public Housing: Housing that is permanently affordable to people earning 0-80% of the area median income.
- Homebuyer Assistance Programs: Downpayment assistance and flexible loan products aimed at helping low income households purchase a home.