Every person has the right to a safe, affordable place to call home, yet an estimated 21,577 individuals in Washington State experience homelessness on any given day. This number has been rising since 2013, due in large part to rent increases across the state. In order to afford an average 2-bedroom home in Washington, renters are required to work 90-hour weeks at the state’s minimum wage of $13.50, or forty hour weeks at an hourly wage of $30.46. Other factors which can contribute to homelessness include unemployment and employment in low wage jobs, and lack of mental health and substance abuse services.
Safe, affordable housing is especially critical now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings from a May 2020 study conducted by the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health show that people experiencing homelessness are at especially high risk of contracting the virus because they often don’t have access to basic preventative measures like handwashing, and “shelters are often crowded and not conducive to safe distancing.” Those experiencing homelessness who do contract the virus are two to three times more likely to die than others in the general public. To keep people safe, King County is taking extra precautions to help protect people experiencing homelessness against outbreaks by moving guests out of congregate shelters into more distanced emergency sites, like motels and community centers. The increased financial commitment has kept the population of people experiencing homelessness in King County as safe as the general population from COVID-19, with similar rates of positive cases between unhoused and housed people. Such results have indicated the need to think critically about the future of our shelters and the necessary resources to care for unhoused people across Western Washington.
Supportive Housing as a Solution
Models which concurrently provide affordable housing options and individualized supportive services have therefore risen in popularity, a combination Catholic Community Services (CCS) and Catholic Housing Services (CHS) supports as a part of our belief that the barriers to housing are complex and difficult to overcome alone. This pairing of affordable has been proven to be the most effective in achieving long-term housing stability, and “has positive effects on employment, mental and physical health, and school attendance.”
Key features of supportive housing programs include:
- Permanence and affordability;
- Services that are housing oriented, multi-disciplinary, and voluntary (addressing physical and mental health, as well as addiction, employment, and tenancy);
- Integration with the local community (including access to transportation, and neighborhood amenities like grocery stores and parks);
- Emphasis on choice (allowing residents to choose which services they receive, create their own daily schedules, and come and go at their discretion); and
- Low barriers to entry (supportive housing programs aim to provide lower barriers to entry than other types of housing programs but often still necessitate credit or background checks)
Evidence suggests that supportive housing programs can reduce reliance and use of other systems like healthcare and corrections, and are therefore more cost effective than affordable housing programs or case management services individually. This model has therefore been a cornerstone of many of our housing assistance programs for decades.
As a major provider and developer of affordable housing, CHS has a unique role in creating housing that meets the specific needs of marginalized communities in Western Washington. With over 2,500 affordable housing units, CHS programs specifically target families, seniors, and farmworker communities, as well as individuals who are low-income, experiencing homelessness, or require specialized housing and services. Above all, CHS strives to provide stability and social services for residents through partnerships with CCS and other providers that encourage community, dignity, and mutual respect.
How to Help:
- Learn more about CCS/CHS and our housing programs by signing up for our 12-part Housing & Hope monthly email series
- Learn more about how COVID has affected the population of people experiencing homelessness in King County
- Support CCS/CHS housing or shelter programs through volunteering or in-kind donations
- Sign up for Minute Messages, our e-Newsletter
- Connect with CCS/CHS on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube
- Support CCS/CHS or one of our individual housing or shelter and homelessness programs with financial gifts
To learn more about how you can get involved with CCS/CHS advocacy opportunities, please contact our Regional Network Builder, Erin Maguire (firstname.lastname@example.org).