FILE: Door Key

(The Center Square) – The King County Regional Homelessness Authority says 786 households have recently been permanently housed in King County.

Over 1,300 federally funded emergency housing vouchers were accepted in May 2021 by KCRHA, the Seattle Housing Authority and Renton Housing Authority. The vouchers were funded through American Rescue Plan.

The vouchers were created to assist persons and households experiencing homelessness, at risk of experiencing homelessness, fleeing, or attempting to flee domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking; or are at high risk of housing instability, according to KCRHA.

Six months after the vouchers were distributed, only 10 people had used them to move into permanent housing. Now, nearly 800 families have moved into permanent housing, according to KCRHA.

Marc Dones, the CEO of KCRHA, noted in a press release that the current homeless response system is on track to move 5,000 to 7,000 people who are homeless into permanent housing on an annual basis.

“This proves that yes we can house people on purpose,” Dones said in a statement. “The bigger problem is that our region hasn’t addressed the root causes: rising rents and stagnant wages, structural racism and access to health care that are pushing more people into homelessness every day.”

The efforts by KCHA, the Seattle Housing Authority and Renton Housing Authority to move people into permanent housing is what Kristy Johnson, King County Housing Authority’s senior director of policy, research and social impact initiatives, would call “nothing short of remarkable.”

“As of this morning, 577 or 76% of KCHA’s allocation of 762 emergency housing vouchers have successfully been leased,” Johnson added.

People cannot just receive emergency housing vouchers. Service providers must first refer people to the Regional Housing Authority for assessment and completing applications. Then public housing authorities evaluate the applicant and issue vouchers.

Once a voucher recipient finds housing, the housing authorities pay the rental subsidy with federal funds until they no longer need it. Newly issued funding opportunities by the Regional Housing Authority help support housing search and ongoing tenancy support services, as well.

According to the most recent point in time count by the King County Regional Homelessness Authority in May 2022, the number of people experiencing homelessness has risen 13.8% over the last two years, while the percentage of sheltered homeless is down 10%.

The portion of homeless with shelter is 43%, according to the point-in-time count. Two years prior, the percentage of homeless that had access to shelter consistently was 53%.

Staff Reporter

Spencer Pauley reports on Seattle and the King County area of Washington. He was previously an independent filmmaker and worked on "The Clinton Affair," a documentary series investigating the impeachment proceedings of former President Bill Clinton.