Housing for Seattle’s Homeless Population…

It doesn’t take statistical analysis for Seattleites to see that homelessness is a problem locally. The Seattle area saw a 19 percent increase from 2015 to 2016 in people living without shelter, from 3,772 to more than 4,500. This is an 84 percent increase from 2011. The Seattle Times recently profiled innovative approaches to reducing homelessness being utilized in Houston and San Francisco. Houston’s approach has shifted focus to getting people into housing rather than opening more shelters, including the construction of a computer system to assess and track the homeless population and prioritize them based on vulnerability. This resulted in a 75 percent decrease from 2011 to 2015 in people living without shelter. They did this by starting with more modest goals (100 chronically homeless veterans in 100 days), building credibility, then coordinating to streamline what was previously a “tangle” of funding resources both public and private. San Francisco has successfully utilized a special homeless shelter with less stringent rules. This includes allowing people to come and go freely as well as keep pets and possessions while they get connected to various resources. Seattle is now interested in opening such a shelter, targeting people who avoid traditional shelters that “have strict guidelines and give guests the boot early each morning.” While it’s important not to ignore or downplay the great efforts many organizations continue to make to address homelessness in the Seattle area, the growing population of those living without shelters suggests that these alternative approaches are certainly worth a look.

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