Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the launch of Family Housing Connection (FHC), a “coordinated entry” system created to make it easier for families to navigate the housing system in King County. There are 3,210 homeless families currently on the placement roster waiting for a housing referral.
Of the 3,210 families on the placement roster today:
- 7% are staying in a place not meant for habitation (215 families)
- 56% are couch surfing or doubled up with friends/family
- 14% are in shelter or using an emergency hotel voucher
- 10% are in a rental with no housing subsidy
- 4% are staying in a hotel without a voucher
- The remaining 9% are in transitional housing, substance abuse treatment, housing with a voucher, a home they own but are losing, hospital, incarcerated, or other.
Coordinated entry came out of recommendations of the Committee to End Homelessness, of which I am a Governing Board member. FHC partners with more than 80 shelter and housing programs in King County and continues to reach out to programs who are not yet partnering. Today, instead of calling 80+ programs individually, families needing housing now have a single access point to 80+shelter and housing programs.
FHC does not create additional housing resources and this new process does not shorten the months long waiting time it takes to get families into shelter or housing faster.
A year’s worth of work illustrates just how much there is yet to do. Here is an excerpt from a recent report:
“As we all expected, year one presented many challenges. No one has felt these challenges more than the 3,788 families who have accessed FHC. Long wait times for housing assessment appointments and much longer wait times for emergency housing produce anxiety and hopelessness for families awaiting our call. The 215 families who are staying in a place not meant for human habitation are prioritized for emergency housing – but even with prioritization, they will wait months for a roof over their children’s heads.” (my emphasis added)
Over this year period, FHC has referred 1,048 families to housing, 55% of them have either moved into housing or been accepted but not yet moved in; 19% of them were denied because background checks, credit checks, drug tests, etc. made them ineligible; 26% of referrals were refused by the family for various reasons. After a family refuses a third referral, they are removed from the waiting list.
Improvements to the system over FHC’s first year include a change requested by the City Council under my leadership, specifically that the “first come first served” referral philosophy be shifted to prioritize families who are staying in a place not meant for human habitation. Future improvements planned, also requested by the City Council, include a. reducing barriers to referrals that currently lead families to be deemed ineligible as well as b. increasing placement assistance resources such as optional background checks and optional document scanning.
Tonight in King County, children in 215 families – while prioritized on top of this list – will sleep in a car, in a greenbelt, on the streets, in an encampment, or in abandoned building. These children will wait months for their families to be placed in shelter or a hotel. This is unacceptable for a region of our resources. I intend to continue to advocate for additional funding to address the immediate housing needs for these children and their families and determine what it would cost to provide basic shelter services so that they do not have to sleep in places not fit for human habitation while they are working with an agency to become re-housed.