Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention
Inequities being addressed
Data show that People of Color are vastly overrepresented among the homeless population. For example, although Blacks/African Americans make up only 6% of King County households, they represent 50% of homeless households. Similarly, Native Americans and Alaska Natives are only 1% of King County households yet 6% of those experiencing homelessness.
Substantial changes or progress in 2017
The Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative (YFHPI) launched a year ago by the Department of Community of Human Services and funded by the Best Starts for Kids levy, is designed to address these disparities by targeting funds to community-based organizations with deep roots in those local communities and populations. These organizations help young people and families that are on the verge of becoming homeless by addressing their specific needs, such as utility assistance, negotiating with landlords to prevent eviction, helping find employment or a higher-paying job, or assistance understanding their rights as renters.
While the majority of participants did receive limited financial assistance, 24% of the participating households did not receive flexible funds, and instead got help finding employment or received other assistance that did not cost money. Initial data also shows that the county is achieving its goal of engaging young people and families of color, who have been disproportionately impacted by the homelessness crisis.
Investing Upstream and Where Needs are Greatest
YFHPI uses progressive engagement case management paired with flexible financial assistance to address the immediate issues placing a household at imminent risk of homelessness. Based on other highly successful models, the YFHPI prevents youth and families from entering homelessness in the first place.
The initiative works with many small, community-based organizations, many of which have not previously been recipients of government funds. The objective is to empower these organizations and support their missions, while maintaining the right balance of technical assistance and support to ensure organizational success.
Additionally, with the rising costs of housing in King County, it is becoming harder for families to remain financially stable and we are seeing higher numbers of households face eviction, thereby reducing their housing options.
Efforts in 2018
Researchers at MIT and Notre Dame selected the county’s initiative for a study on the effectiveness of homelessness prevention. This evaluation will have two components. The first utilizes a lottery system to assess the program model, progressive engagement case management paired with flexible financial assistance. The second component measures the effectiveness of YFHPI relative to more limited basic services. These components will be paired together and implemented concurrently to measure two distinct areas of YFHPI’s effectiveness.