King County Executive Dow Constantine today launched the first strategy funded by Best Starts for Kids, an initiative that will prevent youth and families from becoming homeless.
The initiative will help families that are on the verge of being homeless by addressing their specific needs, such as clothes for a job interview or help with the first month’s rent. The individualized approach is based on a highly successful pilot project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“We are ready to deliver on the commitment I made to the people of King County that we will help put every child and youth in our region on a path toward lifelong success,” said Executive Constantine. “The very first prevention strategy funded by Best Starts for Kids will ensure that more children and families have a safe, healthy and warm place to live, following through on our promise to invest in what works.”
He also announced $41 million in funding that will increase the inventory of affordable housing, including transit-oriented development. Many units will be reserved for military veterans who are homeless, people who suffer mental illness and people who have disabilities.
A successful model that focuses on the individual needs of families
The Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative is the first strategy funded by Best Starts for Kids, a six-year levy that will generate nearly $400 million for initiatives that promote healthier, more resilient children, youth and communities. It includes $19 million to prevent homelessness, starting now with $4 million awarded to 27 community-based nonprofit organizations that successfully competed for levy funds.
In the pilot project that the initiative is modeled after, 96 percent of participants still had housing 18 months after they entered the program.
Unlike the traditional approach that provides a limited number of options that may or may not be helpful, this initiative starts with case managers asking, “What is it you need to avoid becoming homeless?”
One example from the pilot project was a woman who moved to King County from Russia who was an experienced seamstress. By helping her purchase a sewing machine, the program helped her earn a higher income so she could continue to pay for her family’s rent.
Preventing homelessness is less expensive than providing emergency shelter. It also prevents children from experiencing the trauma of homelessness, which can negatively impact brain development.
Increasing the inventory of affordable housing located near transit centers
The $41 million in funding that Executive Constantine announced will expand access to affordable housing, increase the inventory of affordable housing near transit centers, and provide services to help more people succeed once they have a place to live.
It’s part of an $87 million package approved this summer by the County Council that ensures affordable housing can be built throughout the county.
The package includes $14.2 million to build 549 units of affordable housing located near major transit centers throughout King County, creating high-density, mixed-income neighborhoods. By borrowing against future revenue generated by hotel and motel taxes, King County will increase the amount of affordable housing located within a 10-minute walk of major King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit stations before property values increase.
He announced $12.1 million to build 279 units affordable housing in Renton, Bellevue, Seattle, Auburn and Tukwila. Some of the units will be set aside for military veterans who are homeless, people who are transitioning from institutional or hospital settings, and people who have developmental disabilities.
A total of $10.2 million will provide services that help people transition to safe, affordable housing and succeed once they have a place to live. That includes rental assistance and housing with on-site behavioral health and other support services. The announcement also includes new and renewed funding for homeless shelter, transitional housing and rapid rehousing.