News

Wednesday, March 27 2019

A quick financial boost can be just what people need to end their homelessness

Mother and daughter standing in front of homeSome people experiencing homelessness in our communities can afford to pay a modest rent every month. For them, the hurdles in signing a lease and getting into a home are the requisite move-in expenses, which can cost in the neighborhood of three months worth of rent.

Landlords often require new tenants to pay first and last month’s rent in advance—in addition to a security or damage deposit—before handing over a key. Building Changes believes that an inability to pay upfront move-in expenses should never thwart the hopes of people trying to transition out of homelessness.

Building Changes has launched a new centralized fund in King County to help more people experiencing homelessness get past the barrier of move-in expenses and become housed right away. The project expands the use of Diversion as a homeless response strategy in King County, which has been a key policy goal of ours. Our research shows Diversion to be an effective and cost-efficient approach to get families housed quickly, safely, and simply.

Diversion helps people identify an immediate housing solution for resolving their homelessness. The solution comes from outside the homeless system, where housing resources are finite and not readily available to all who need them. For some people, the housing solution may include a one-time financial boost from the homeless system to help them obtain and maintain housing. 

Move-in expenses represent the most common forms of financial assistance. But the centralized Diversion fund also can cover other expenses that stand in the way of someone becoming housed, such as work clothes, a cell phone, or car repairs—items people may need to hold down a job and earn a steady income.

Results from a past Building Changes Diversion project show that one-third of the families that secured housing through Diversion did so without needing any direct financial assistance whatsoever. For those who do need it, however, the new centralized Diversion fund will be a welcome source of assistance in King County. 

The centralized Diversion fund totals $1 million. It started with a $250,000 investment from Building Changes. Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy Foundation followed by investing $750,000, raised through the band’s Home Shows concert series last year.

To get the project off the ground, Building Changes is supporting Diversion training for staff of homeless service providers across King County. That means any family or individual—no matter where they seek homeless services—can receive money from the centralized Diversion fund to help them move quickly into housing. 

Recognizing that people’s situations differ, we set no cap on the amount of funding a family or individual can receive. Having no limit can mean the difference between someone becoming housed vs. someone remaining homeless.

Working with All Home King County, Building Changes designed the centralized Diversion fund to eliminate as much red tape as possible. Africatown International, the fund’s administrator, often can cut checks within one day, meaning people can move into housing with little or no delay—and spend less time homeless. 

Building Changes hopes the centralized Diversion fund project will demonstrate to policymakers and philanthropists across the state of Washington that investing resources in the right places can have quick and significant effects on the lives of people experiencing homelessness.