UP # 324: HOW DO WE ENSURE WE AREN’T A CITY WITH HOMELESS CHILDREN SLEEPING OUTDOORS?
My City Council Housing, Human Services, Health, and Culture (HHSHC) Committee is having a special meeting at 2:00 P.M. Wednesday, July 25 at Mary’s Place, their new location in the Hope Center at Gethsemane Lutheran Church, 1830 9th Avenue.
In the spring of 2011, the City Council passed Resolution 31292.
The intent of Resolution 31292, can be found in the title: “regarding services for homeless people who may not currently be served by the existing shelter system; and creating a work plan and timeline for analyzing alternatives and recommending actions that meet the long term housing and immediate survival and safety needs of homeless people who do not have access to safe shelter.”
Passing this resolution was the first step that the Council has ever taken in deciding to study how resources can be focused on the immediate survival and safety needs of homeless people who are sleeping outside. The resolution required that we look at a number of different options. A number of the things we set out to do we have accomplished and the decision of how to allocate funds earmarked for this issue was delayed until that year’s budget deliberations.
In the November 2011 budget process, the Council decided instead to shift the focus from the needs of all homeless people who are sleeping outside to the needs of specifically homeless families with children who are sleeping outside. $435,000 in new dollars was appropriated by the Council to services for individuals and families with children. With the passage of this funding and the 2012 Budget, the Council voted also to pass a Budget Guidance Statement, requiring the Human Services Department to report upon the outcome of the $435,000 in meeting the Council’s objective that “no family be unsheltered by the end of 2012.”
Wednesday’s event will inform Committee members and the public how these funds have been spent and whether they addressed the Council’s objective. Addressing the goal of ensuring that no families with children sleep outside is, in some ways, complicated by the fact that some people think we should expand shelter while the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness recommends that we use resources for purposes other than expanding shelter because data shows that we more people off the street more quickly and less expensively with rapid re-housing than with an increase in emergency shelter. The solution doesn’t have to be additional shelter, but if not additional shelter, it must at least create priority-access to non-shelter services for families sleeping outside.
How do we know that there are families with children sleeping outside?
- The 2012 Family Turn Away Survey found that on one night in February there were 116 families with 214 children who were turned away from shelters with no room. Seven of those families self-reported that they were in a vehicle, camping, or on the streets.
- The Family Housing Connection, as of July 2012, is seeing a high end of 25 families each week who do not know where they are staying tonight. The Family Housing Connection is a one-stop system so families do not have to navigate an obstacle course of different phone numbers, protocols, and intake criteria in order to get assistance.
- In June, the Nickelsville encampment had 14 children living there.
- This week Mary’s Place reported that their day center had 2 families with babies that had no shelter.
Seattle simply mustn’t be a city that lets its children sleep outside in encampments, greenbelts, in cars, on buses, or doorways. I believe that this is a goal that we can accomplish.
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