Sunday, June 18, 2006

Ending Homelessness in Seattle June 2006

I just read this as it came in on June 18 in the very early morning hour:

More than 900 homeless people have moved into permanent housing in Seattle Washington, King County since a 10-year plan to end homelessness was announced last year. The King County Committee to End Homelessness said government and private agencies have built or funded 1,300 new housing units in the plan's first year.

The committee has called for the creation of 9,500 units within the decade.
"The progress report shows that in just 10 months we've made tremendous progress," said Bill Block, project director for the committee. "That is a wonderful start." The committee, a coalition of government agencies, nonprofits, business and religious organizations, wants to end homelessness by providing stable, permanent homes rather than managing the population primarily with food banks and temporary shelter. The committee is co-chaired by King County Executive Ron Sims and Car Toys Chief Executive Officer Dan Brettler and includes as members Mayor Greg Nickels, city council members from throughout the region and representatives from businesses and churches.

A survey of about 900 people commissioned by United Way of King County cited homelessness as the third most critical issue facing King County, behind transportation and education.

The random phone survey, released Thursday, found that 84 percent of respondents think ending homelessness is possible. Those surveyed by Lopez & Cheung Research also said government was not doing enough to address homelessness. Leaders of the Committee to End Homelessness Insist their goal can be accomplished in 10 years. City Councilman Tom Rasmussen, a governing-board member, acknowledged that "people doubt us. People say we're unrealistic." He called the survey results "a clear mandate to people not only in Seattle but King County to end homelessness. People think we can do it."

According to the most recent one-night count, about 8,000 people live on the streets, in emergency housing or transitional housing in King County. Of about 1,300 new units in Thursday's progress report, 563 were built in the past year, 391 were funded for future construction and 387 units were converted into housing for formerly homeless individuals and families in Bellevue, Federal Way, Duvall and downtown Seattle. Block did not have estimates on how much all the units cost. People who want to move into permanent housing, which includes support services, are required to apply through various service providers, such as the Downtown Emergency Service Center.

The committee is working on creating a single stop where people can learn whether they qualify. The committee also has pushed for a new database called Safe Harbors to monitor the number of homeless people. The software has met with some resistance from homeless individuals who were concerned about privacy issues because Seattle, King County and United Way conditioned funding on participation in the database.

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