OUR WORK: CHRONIC HOMELESSNESS
"It is time for action. If we all work together, the future we imagine is within our reach"
- Chris Gregoire, CEO of Challenge Seattle
CHRONIC HOMELESSNESS: A CROSSROAD
We are at a crossroad. A global pandemic has taken thousands of lives, an economic recession has left thousands more without work, and city centers have been shuttered and abandoned. As a region, we should not accept going “back to normal” or “the new normal” but must actively work towards creating a better future. A lynchpin of our recovery will be addressing chronic homelessness. While predating the pandemic, chronic homelessness has intensified in the last year. Its effects are impacting our community at all levels. Employers do not feel safe asking employees to return to work, and some are weighing whether to return to downtown offices at all. Families feel unsafe downtown, in neighborhood parks, and their own neighborhoods. Most importantly, people experiencing homelessness themselves feel unsafe and are not receiving the services and supports that will empower them on their journey out of homelessness. As a result, human lives are being lost because of the health crisis of chronic homelessness. We are at a critical point. Our action or inaction today will have far reaching consequences.
Read | Challenge Seattle's Report on Chronic Homelessness
Over the last four years, chronic homelessness has risen at an annual growth rate of 25% statewide and an astonishing 42% in Seattle-King County—the second fastest growing rate in the nation. Spending on the problem has increased, but greater investment has not yielded a reduction in the number of people trapped in the cycle of chronic homelessness.
WHY THIS MATTERS
There are human costs to residents and families, and most importantly, the toll on the individual lives of people experiencing chronic homelessness including an average 20-year lifespan reduction. If we do not act now, many more individuals will fall into chronic homelessness and we will not be ablet o recover.
Success in other jurisdictions indicates that we need to fundamentally change how we address chronic homelessness—taking a more centralized, data-driven, and individualized approach that addresses people’s needs in real time with both housing and key services. Additionally, we must break down the currently siloed homelessness ecosystem into an integrated system that focuses meeting the needs of the individual with timely and appropriate services.
TIME FOR ACTION
This is the crossroad where we find ourselves. It is a turning point with far reaching consequences for the health, safety and economic security of the region. We need to execute on a vision of successful permanent exits from chronic homelessness leading to permanent housing, employment where appropriate, long-term independence and dignity. The crisis is calling for urgent action now to bring hope to the public, businesses and most importantly, to those who are experiencing chronic homelessness today. Individuals and families need to feel and be safe in neighborhoods, downtown and in parks. Businesses need to open, and employees need to feel safe returning to work. We need to literally save the lives of our neighbors who are experiencing chronic homelessness. As we have done in the COVID pandemic, we must join together - the private and public sectors, non-profits, service providers, and the public. We can and must create a better future for all of us. It is time for action.
Read | Chronic Homelessness: A Crossroad