Most cities, Seattle included, employ a Housing First strategy in driving down the number of those who are homeless.

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Seattle has a tough challenge in providing low-barrier housing for those who are homeless. Due to the current tech boom, housing prices and rents have skyrocketed in this city, leaving many vulnerable individuals displaced and unsheltered.

Most urban cities, Seattle included, employ a Housing First strategy in driving down the number of those who are homeless. Housing First is based on the idea that a homeless individual or household’s first and primary need is obtaining stable housing, without the barriers that were present in older models. (For instance, under a Housing First model, individuals can be moved into housing without preconditions of treatment acceptance or participation in services.) The idea is that once housing is taken care of, other issues can and should be addressed in a manner that is holistic and caring.

Here are some important touchpoints in alleviating the homelessness that is happening in our communities today, and a look at some of the organizations working to make a difference.

Housing

Late last month, King County announced it was going to develop three pilot projects in the greater Seattle area. These projects, costing about $12 million, will create single- and dormitory-style modular homes for Seattle’s unsheltered population. While this pilot would house 200 people, this project may lay groundwork for future developments.

Currently, Mary’s Place is an organization that runs homeless shelters for women, children, and families in emergency situations. It is the largest provider of its type in King County. Its emergency family night shelters provide basic needs such as meals, showers, and clothes to individuals. Across 10 shelter locations, Mary’s Place also provides beds for 680 moms, dads, and their children. Notably, Mary’s Place is expanding. It purchased its first wholly owned shelter space in Burien last May.

Jobs

United Way of King County, Millionair Club Charity, the City of Seattle, and the Downtown Seattle Association are working in partnership to connect unsheltered individuals with employers who have unfilled jobs. The program, JobsConnect, is highly mobile, with outreach performed through vans that patrol through the city and outreach workers who enroll visible individuals in jobs on the spot. Jobs Connect has connected more than 1,500 people to jobs since 2017.

One of these employers is the Metropolitan Improvement District run by the DSA. Its “clean teams” go through downtown Seattle picking up trash, removing graffiti, pressure washing sidewalks and other similar tasks.

Counseling

Ellen Carruth, director of City University of Seattle’s Master of Arts in Counseling program, says that CityU faculty emphasize concepts related to social justice in teaching students about the role of the counselor in addressing barriers to mental health treatment.

“A lot of the time what you see, with folks on the street, is that there are multiple layers of barriers,” says Carruth. “One of the things we do is highlight those barriers and how to overcome them with our students.”

As part of the curriculum, students at CityU work with clients in the university’s counseling center as well as work on-site doing direct services at various partner organizations, such as Recovery Cafe, a community of recovery support for those affected by homelessness, addiction and other mental health challenges.

“Part of [our students’] practicum experience is being in different organizations so they learn, spend time with, and are around people who are very different from them,” says Karen Langer, CityU Counseling Center director, speaking on the importance of fostering compassion.

CityU’s counseling center offers counseling with supervised counseling students. The cost of sessions is based on a sliding scale, averaging only about $5 to $10 per session. For those who need more robust treatment that the counseling center cannot fulfill — such as those suffering from substance abuse disorders or those who are in crisis — CityU offers referrals to other agencies that can be of assistance.

Transportation

One common barrier to access to counseling and other services is transportation. Solid Ground is an anti-poverty social service organization that also provides curb-to-curb, door-to-door transportation for those with disabilities that prevent them from using the fixed-route transit system. Solid Ground’s ACCESS bus rides connect individuals to health and human services that they need, but would otherwise have trouble accessing.

Solid Ground also runs its Downtown Circular Bus, a free service. This bus has a fixed, seven-stop route. Solid Ground vehicles are fully accessible, with lifts for passengers in wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

City University of Seattle offers CACREP-accredited Master of Arts in Counseling programs, which prepare students to work as counselors in multiple settings. Learn more at www.cityu.edu or 888-422-4898.