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King County Homeless

November 27, 2014

King County announced a plan in 2005 to end homelessness by 2015. We checked in with the county's Committee To End Homelessness for an update.

Trina is living at tent city - she says attitude plays a large role in getting through the day.

Trina: There’s been a lot of people here who lost their jobs and they can’t get into housing, or mental issues what it is, there are a lot of reasons.

Feliks Banel: Trina lives at Tent City 3, a homeless community that moved to Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood in October 2014.

Trina: I mean many people think that tent city, when you see homeless people or when you think of a homeless encampment you think they are lowlifes or they don’t know what happened.

Tents lined up in rows at Tent City 3 temporary housing community for homeless

Banel: Trina is one of about 10-thousand people who are homeless at any given time in King County.  That number has been increasing in recent years.

Mark Putnam:  More and more people are becoming homeless due to economic reasons. The housing affordability gap we have in our community there is a real link. The rising rents and low vacancy rents are very much tied to rising homelessness.

Banel: Mark Putnam is director of King County’s Committee to End Homelessness, an initiative that was launched in King County and other communities around the US in 2005.  The original goal was to end homelessness in 10 years, but that goal is now stated a little differently.

Mark Putnam, director of King County’s Committee to End Homelessness.

Putnam: The vision of the Committee to End Homelessness is to make homelessness a rare occurrence in King County. And if they become homeless it is a brief episode and it only happens one time. Our efforts are with many partners it involves local government philanthropy who carry out the work.

Banel: The committee’s amended goal may be simple: make homelessness rare, brief and one-time.  But homelessness is a complex issue.

Putnam: We know that it’s cheaper to house somebody that’s homeless than to not house them. They’re spending time in jail, they’re spending time in emergency rooms. Those costs, those public costs add up and it is less expensive to shelter them and even less expensive to put them into a long-term housing program.

Banel: The Committee to End Homelessness manages a number of programs and works with partner groups and agencies to serve the vastly different needs of different homeless populations: youth; families; veterans; the mentally ill.  But some basic realities are beyond the committee’s control.

Putnam: We don’t believe we can prevent any person from becoming homeless.  There will be family disputes, there will be evictions, there will be bank accounts with $50 in it at a bad time when they get evicted and they don’t have someplace to go.

Banel: The committee recently launched a new program called “One Home,” to recruit landlords willing to make vacant properties available to homeless people.  Landlords relax their tenant screening criteria—such as credit reports or criminal background checks—and King County assumes some of the landlords’ financial risk.

Putnam: All these reasons that people are homeless we need to be laser focused on each of them.  So we continue to have a really broad coalition that’s growing of people that are committed to this.

Banel: Mark Putnam says that we all can play a role in reducing homelessness in King County, especially if you’re a landlord willing to take part in ONE HOME.

Putnam: If you’re a landlord, we want to talk to you.  If you’re Joe Citizen, do anything you can and I think you know talk to people who are homeless see what they need make a human to human connection.

Trina: I am hoping that instead of us living in tent cities like tents and stuff like that there will be something for us like a building or some kind of housing to help us. Because living in tents, it’s freezing. It’s a struggle for us, it really is.

Putnam: I’m really optimistic for the next period.  Like every city in the country, we haven’t ended homelessness in 10 years and I think unlike other communities we’ve built more housing, we’re more committed than ever and we won’t stop until it’s done.



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Good Job: explaining : the program, outcomes, potential of achievement.