New projects will help more families find safe housing in King and Pierce counties

Published: November 13, 2017

Building Changes is supporting three new projects to improve the effectiveness of the homeless-response system and serve more families experiencing a housing crisis.

Mother and sonBuilding Changes is supporting three new projects to improve the effectiveness of the homeless-response system and serve more families experiencing a housing crisis in King and Pierce counties. These projects were recently funded by more than $2 million in Washington Youth & Families Fund grant awards. We will support each project with ongoing training and technical assistance, evaluate the results and share the lessons we learn across the entire state so that all families in Washington can be stably housed.

Rapid Re-Housing Improvement and Expansion

Rapid Re-Housing is a strategy that already has proven effective at moving families out of homelessness around the country—and has the potential to produce even more successful outcomes locally. This $1 million, two-year grant increases King County’s capacity in Rapid Re-Housing to serve an additional 100 families experiencing homelessness with rental subsidy and other direct assistance, and test new standards to measure the performance of Rapid Re-Housing. It also marshals resources to improve outcomes for American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) families in Rapid Re-Housing programs. This addresses a glaring racial and ethnic disparity in the system: AI/AN families in the county’s Rapid Re-Housing programs currently exit to permanent housing only 50 percent of the time, while the success rate for non-Native families is 75 percent.

Bringing Diversion to Family Shelters

Diversion helps families identify realistic options for moving quickly from homelessness to housing through a combination of creative problem solving and time-limited support, such as housing search services and flexible financial assistance. In two previous Diversion pilots we supported, 49% of families that tried Diversion found safe housing in a median of 37 days, at an average cost of $1,668 per family, averting costlier and slower interventions. Among those housed through Diversion, only about 7.5% returned to homelessness within a year.* By offering Diversion to all families through Coordinated Entry, the streamlined process where families initially access homeless services, Pierce County is setting an example for others to follow.

Currently, only four of Pierce County’s seven family emergency shelters accept referrals from Coordinated Entry. This $392,400, two-year grant extends Coordinated Entry and Diversion to the other three shelters, operated by the Rescue Mission, Korean Women’s Association and the YWCA. Now, families who arrive at these three shelters will be offered Diversion, which has a higher rate of success for finding housing, and is quicker and cheaper for families than shelter stays. This will also conserve shelter beds for families with higher vulnerabilities and no other housing options.

2-1-1 and Diversion

Building Changes believes that to fully address family homelessness, communities must employ strategies to prevent families from becoming homeless in the first place. This project does just that. Operated by United Way of Pierce County, South Sound 2-1-1 is a common entry point through which Pierce County families access homeless services. This $623,328, two-year grant funds Diversion at Sound Sound 2-1-1 by Increasing call center staff, trainings all call center staff in the skills of Diversion so that they can help families resolve their housing crises over the phone, and providing access to a pool of flexible funds. Until now, families contacting South Sound 2-1-1 had been referred to Coordinated Entry, creating an extra step and potential delays in obtaining safe housing. Now, 2-1-1 staff will provide Diversion not only to families that are literally homeless, but also those enduring a serious housing crisis that puts them on the cusp of homelessness. Diversion typically involves one-on-one conversations between a trained specialist and a family in an office. This pilot will test whether Diversion offered over the phone can be as effective as Diversion offered face-to-face.

*Data sources:

  • Building Changes analysis of HMIS data as of September 2017 from King and Pierce County Diversion pilots, January 2014 to September 2016.
  • Building Changes calculation of average costs based on: The sum total of grant dollars designated in the King and Pierce County Diversion pilots for flex funds and staffing, divided by the number of families successfully housed. This estimate does not include overhead costs.


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