Executive Constantine previews first step toward preventing child homelessness

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

King County Executive Dow Constantine provided a preview of a new strategy Tuesday that will prevent youth and families from becoming homeless, based on a highly successful pilot project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

It will be the first initiative funded by the voter-approved Best Starts for Kids levy Executive Constantine developed to invest in prevention and early intervention strategies to deliver better outcomes in health and well-being.

The three-year pilot project focused on helping survivors of domestic violence remain in safe, stable housing. Ninety-six percent of those in the program still had housing 18 months later, and 76 percent needed only minimal services after 18 months.

Focusing on the specific needs of individual parents and caregivers

Rather than having a limited number of options for those who are at risk of being homeless, the customized approach starts with case managers focusing on the specific needs of individual parents and caregivers. Examples of customized interventions include helping a parent pay for a commercial driver’s license so he or she can remain employed, get clothes for a new job, or help with the first month’s rent.

“When case managers have flexibility to meet the specific needs of parents and caregivers, children have a chance to be children without the fear and anxiety of homelessness,” said David Bley, Director of the Pacific Northwest Initiative at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “We’re excited that King County, one of the largest regional governments in the United States, is building on the success of our pilot project to prevent homelessness.”

Preventing homelessness is less expensive than providing shelter and prevents children from experiencing the trauma that homelessness can cause, which can have a negative lifelong impact on brain development.

Executive Constantine recently sent his proposal for the Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative to the King County Council. The proposal includes $19 million in funding paid for by the Best Starts for Starts levy.

Executive Constantine will deliver his proposal for the entire Best Starts for Kids initiative in June. Half of the funds will invest in prevention strategies that focus on birth through 5, when 92 percent of brain growth occurs. It will sustain the gain by providing early intervention as problems such as serious depression and addiction arise during teenage years. And it will invest in healthier, safer communities that reinforce progress.

--King County Executive's Office


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