A new pocket-size resource guide is intended to help homeless people navigate a spiderweb of resources in King County,

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A common refrain in homeless services is that Seattle’s strength — a large number of nonprofits working to take care of homeless people — is also its weakness.

In 2017, King County was home to 77 organizations that shelter or house homeless people. That’s 25 more than the city of San Francisco, and more than the entire state of Montana.

If you’re homeless, navigating this vast network can be hard. That’s why advocates are releasing a pocket guide to services for homeless people.

About this project

Project Homeless is a new Seattle Times initiative that examines and explains the region’s complex problem of homelessness with watchdog reporting and solutions-oriented stories. Project Homeless is community-funded journalism with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Campion Foundation, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Raikes Foundation, Schultz Family Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Seattle Mariners and Starbucks. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of the funders and maintain editorial control over Project Homeless content.

Real Change, the homeless-advocacy group and street newspaper publisher, is releasing on Wednesday “The Emerald City Resource Guide,”‘ a 132-page, pocket-size booklet of resources. Real Change will distribute 40,000 copies of the guide to human-service agencies, first responders and the Seattle Public Library.

The Seattle Times’ Project Homeless is funded by BECU, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Campion Foundation, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Raikes Foundation, Schultz Family Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Seattle Mariners, and Starbucks. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over Project Homeless content.

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The booklet is in print form because getting online can be a barrier for homeless people, said Tim Harris, founding director of Real Change. The book has an alphabetized table of contents with about 20 categories of services, including specific services for people in the LGBTQ community, immigrants and others.

The booklet also has resources on how to get onto a waitlist for housing, although Harris acknowledged that is one of the “tougher categories” because of the long waitlists.

“Just because we’ve published a guide doesn’t mean that there are more services for people to access,” Harris said. “The waiting lists are still there — but at least it gets people in the front door.”

Real Change funded the project with a $20,000 grant from the city of Seattle, $12,000 in sponsorships and around $4,000 of its own money.

In King County’s spiderweb of services and providers, resources get outdated quickly, and a guidebook like this can’t stay static. Harris said Real Change plans to update the guide in less than a year, and after that, put out updated booklets every six months.

The guide is modeled after a similar one in Portland, the “Rose City Resource,” produced by the street newspaper Street Roots. That guide started in 1999 as four pages in the paper, but the Street Roots staff realized that the customers buying the paper were not the ones who needed the guide, according to Executive Editor Joanne Zuhl.

They pulled it out of the paper and made it its own booklet around eight years ago. Today, more than 160,000 “Rose City Resource” guides are published annually, updated every six months.

Zuhl says she’s glad Real Change is bringing the concept to Seattle.

“It will become one of the most popular publications in the city, I have no doubt,” Zuhl said.