We work at the federal, state, and local levels, which is rare and also effective. With a 501(c)(3) foundation and 501(c)(4) advocacy fund, we go beyond just writing checks and making grants. We use every tool in the toolbox – our own voices in direct advocacy as well as developing partnerships to leverage the strength of a community.
This allows us to address homelessness from as many angles as it will take to end it. When every community has enough housing and services for anyone experiencing homelessness, our work will be done. In some places in Washington State, homelessness is about to become history. We’re all in for making that possibility reality.
focus on youth
Getting youth off the streets and safely housed is non-negotiable. In Washington State, too many youth are still homeless. But thanks to coordinated community approaches, the number is decreasing all the time. A disproportionate number are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who identify as LGBTQ+. Locally, A Way Home Washington is a beacon of what’s working. We are advocating for national efforts that will follow this model. With a combination of national and local efforts, we can prevent and end homelessness among young people.
Racism is an effective tool that divides our movements and communities, and undoing racism will create an environment where all forms of inequity can be more effectively disrupted.
Lift Up Equitable Policies
In King County, Black and African American people make up 7% of the overall population, but 25% of those experiencing homelessness. As our partner Washington Low Income Housing Alliance says, “In working to root out and undo inequity in all its forms, we lead with race because racism is the foundation upon which this country was built and is still the driving cause of housing disparities.” We must continue to eliminate any and all barriers and put in place permanent protections against discrimination.
create more housing
Ending homelessness comes down to simple math: build enough housing for all. In 2022, the Washington State Legislature made a historic investment of $850 million to build and acquire deeply affordable housing options. Advocates, businesses, and local government all came together under the House Washington Coalition to push for these necessary investments to address homelessness. This is progress and we are proud to be part of the coalition.
Increase and Leverage Government’s Role
The scale of the homelessness crisis requires everyone to be all in for solving it. In King County, business, philanthropy, people with lived experience, and government agreed to place all county and city of Seattle efforts to eradicate homelessness under one umbrella, coalescing policy, funding, resources and services with an equity and social justice lens in Partnership for Zero. Together with the National Low Income Housing Coalition, we are pushing to increase the federal role in closing the gap of housing needs throughout the country. These types of bold vision, government leadership, and solid plans are encouraging–and we need more.
We simply would not have the level of homelessness we have today if it weren’t for two things: 1) the federal government walking away from building housing 40+ years ago and 2) racism.
As a result, a tangle of systems emerged which often left out the people they were intended to serve, especially when it comes to our youth. Our challenge today, and I believe we can overcome it, is to increase effective government support, create effective systems, and most importantly to build public will that believes we can end homelessness and will hold our public sector accountable until we do.