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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Executive kicks off Best Starts for Kids implementation with plan to prevent youth and family homelessness

Summary

The first initiative to be funded by the Best Starts for Kids levy will work to prevent youth and families in King County from becoming homeless. It will provide flexible funding and case management for those who are at imminent risk of homelessness, reducing the number of children who are traumatized.

Story

Best Starts for Kids - King County

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced his plan to prevent youth and family homelessness, which will be the first program funded by the Best Starts for Kids levy.

If approved by the County Council, the program will provide flexible funding and case management for those who are at imminent risk of homelessness. The overarching goal is to prevent children from experiencing the fear and uncertainty of homelessness, which the latest neuroscience shows can have a lifelong negative impact on brain development.

“Our best opportunity to reduce the number of people who are homeless is to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place,” said Executive Constantine. “I am pleased that the first initiative to come from Best Starts for Kids is one that will provide the tools to preserve housing stability for our region’s children, youth and young adults and ensure they have the support they need to grow up healthy, ready to learn and able to succeed.”

The prevention plan was developed in collaboration with a Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Model Planning Committee and the new Children and Youth Advisory Board, both comprised of youth and family service providers, experts on child development and other key stakeholders.

“Children who experience the trauma of homelessness carry that with them throughout their lives,” said Adrienne Quinn, Director of King County Department of Community and Human Services. “We now know that the stress of homelessness can lead to lifelong problems in health, behavioral health, and the ability to learn. We must do all that we can to keep every child on a path to success.”

Plan has strong client-centered focus

The proposed Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative has a strong client-centered focus, including mobile case management coupled with flexible financial assistance that is intended to address the immediate issue that is placing the family or youth at imminent risk of homelessness. Case managers will be trained to ask, “What is it you need to keep from becoming homeless?”

  • Case management will support the needs of the individual or family and may range from “one touch” temporary supports to longer term services for those with more complex needs. Each individual and family would get the help they need, but only the level of help they need, to achieve stability.
  • Financial assistance could be used for a range of needs such as clothing for a job, cost of an employment-related license, a variety of housing and/or moving costs, car repairs, groceries and other expenses that may be impacting the safety and security of a family.

Based on a successful pilot program

The Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative is based on a very successful pilot program implemented by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Medina Foundation. A study of that program found successful outcomes in building family stability:

  • 96 percent were still stably housed 18 months after entering the program, allowing participants to become self-sufficient quickly and without need for ongoing intensive services.
  • Participants also expressed that housing stability had a profoundly positive effect on their children, improved the health and well-being for themselves and their children, and restored their dignity and self-worth.

Details of the plan 

The ordinance establishing the youth and family homelessness prevention initiative sets aside a total of $19 million to fund the program. The proposed plan calls for $3.1 million to be spent in the first year of the levy, with a ramp up during the second and third years to significantly reduce the numbers of families and youth who are becoming homeless.

The agencies selected to administer the funds to prevent homelessness for youth and families will be chosen through a competitive process. They may include community agencies, nonprofits and faith organizations that can demonstrate the ability to provide both flexible services and flexible funding to meet emergent needs. Because schools are important partners, the successful organizations would have to demonstrate a strong collaboration with their local school districts.

Success will largely be measured by ensuring that the individuals served do not return for homeless services and there is a reduction in the number of youth and families who are newly homeless. Additional outcome measures will be developed as part of the implementation process.

Efforts to prevent homelessness in our region

The 2015 One Night Count data reported more than 2,000 youth under age 17 sought out shelter or other homeless services. Twenty-eight percent of the homeless population in 2015 was families with children, which was about 2,800 people. It is estimated that more than 6,000 students in King County public schools are homeless.

The Homeless Management Information System data shows that half of all people who become homeless were homeless for the first time. An even higher number of unaccompanied youth were homeless for the first time, 64 percent. The data also shows disproportionate numbers of persons of color and youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer are homeless. The new initiative will specifically address the disproportionalities identified by the data.

The Metropolitan King County Council will review the Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative in the coming weeks.


Quotes

Our best opportunity to reduce the number of people who are homeless is to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place. I am pleased that the first initiative to come from Best Starts for Kids is one that will provide the tools to preserve housing stability for our region’s children, youth and young adults and ensure they have the supports they need to grow up healthy, ready to learn and able to succeed.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

Children who experience the trauma of homelessness carry that with them throughout their lives,” said Adrienne Quinn, Director of King County Department of Community and Human Services. “We now know that the stress of homelessness can lead to lifelong problems in health, behavioral health, and the ability to learn. We must do all that we can to keep every child on a path to success.

Adrienne Quinn, Director, King County Dept. of Community and Human Services

For more information, contact:

Chad Lewis, Executive Office, 206-263-1250


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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