Community members and Best Starts for Kids partners joined King County Executive Dow Constantine today to share results from Best Starts’ initiative to prevent homelessness. In the initiative’s first year, partners together prevented more than 3,000 people from becoming homeless. 96% of the young people and families who received services through the initiative still had a place to live as of September 2017, the latest data available.
“Thousands of people who faced homelessness this winter are instead living in the safety of their own homes because of the prevention initiative we launched one year ago,” said Executive Constantine. “Together with our partners, we are delivering on the promise I made to the people of King County to invest in what works, and deliver better outcomes for children, youth, and families.”
Flexible funds provide individual solutions
Unlike the traditional approach to homelessness prevention that offers limited options for assistance, Best Starts for Kids’ approach provides case managers with the flexibility to meet the specific needs of someone who is on the verge of homelessness. Examples include transportation or utility assistance, help finding a higher-paying job, or help understanding their legal rights as a renter.
“The Best Starts for Kids funding is a game changer. It gives us the opportunity to work with families and youth to maintain their housing, rather than after they have faced the devastation of homelessness,” said Terry Pottmeyer, President & CEO of Friends of Youth. “Because families and youth tell us exactly what support they need to stay housed, we can respond quickly and respectfully, reinforcing their self-efficacy and natural resilience.”
Case managers play a key role
The initiative starts with case managers asking, “What is it you need to avoid becoming homeless?” Nearly a quarter of households ended up not needing financial assistance because case managers were able to help them in other ways, such as negotiating with a landlord to prevent an eviction or connecting them with other services.
The initiative provides extensive training for case managers on resources available to their clients. In 2017, case managers joined together for 10 learning circles on topics such as tenant rights, civil legal advocacy, and LGBTQ cultural awareness. Learning circles help case managers share lessons learned and build knowledge across the initiative’s 25 partner organizations.
Best Starts for Kids awarded $4.1 million to 25 partners to provide prevention services during first year of the initiative. The County will invest a total of $19 million in the initiative over the course of the six-year Best Starts for Kids levy.