[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]
Food. Water. Shelter. The most basic needs for human survival. The Seattle area is home to one of the hottest local economies in the United States, as well as the third largest population of persons experiencing homelessness – over 12,000. In one of the richest regions of the country, we have have resources to confront this issue – we only need the political will to implement proven solutions, such as Housing First.
While most people experience homelessness for only brief periods, around 30% of cases are considered chronic, meaning the individual has been homeless for at least a year and suffers from a disabling condition – often an illness or substance abuse. Housing First is designed to address chronic homelessness, and has been successful in places like Utah and New York City.
Housing First does not mean just giving someone an apartment. Along with subsidized housing or a voucher, it includes services to help the individual cope with the issues that contributed to their homelessness, and begin a healthier more productive life. Traditional housing programs require people to be sober and drug-free prior to being admitted. The Housing First model recognizes that having a permanent home is a key component to successfully completing a substance abuse program.
Providing housing and services come at a cost, but analysis has shown that people in permanent housing use fewer high-cost emergency services, creating a net saving for taxpayers. This promise of a fiscally conservative solution was key in convincing Utah lawmakers to adopt Housing First. In 2009 similar system was put in place by the VA which has seen a 50% drop in homeless veterans.
Homelessness is clearly a regional issue, Burien cannot solve it alone. But by coordinating with county and state efforts, we can make make a real difference in the lives of hundreds of our community members who are suffering. I urge you to contact your city, county and state representatives and ask them to support increased funding for homeless programs, including Housing First.
– Jon Gordon
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