SEATTLE -- It has now been 11 years since the 10-year-plan to end homelessness got underway in King County. That effort was part of a project done at the urging of the federal government who encouraged cities and counties across the country to take part.
Mark Putnam is the Director of All Home King County and was one of the people who helped out with the 10-year-plan to end homelessness which launched in 2005. Putnam said there are multiple reasons that the plan didn’t pan out, but two of the big ones are funding and rent.
“Research shows that when rent goes up by 100 dollars from one year to the next, homelessness increases by 15-39% depending on if it’s a rural, suburban or urban area,” Putnam said.
Putnam said that the county did not receive the necessary support from the state and federal government.
“In states where the funding isn’t there for safety nets like mental health treatment and chemical dependency treatment, you see more homelessness,” Putnam added. “And Washington state has historically ranked behind in mental health expenditures. The last study that was done put us at 47th out of 50 states.”
“When you don’t have that treatment you have a lot of untreated mental health issues and that can lead to perpetual and chronic homelessness for some individuals,” Putnam said.
Putnam said Washington also has the most regressive tax system in the country, which means the state taxes the poor more than other states.
Despite the failures he says there were plenty of successes too. He said that 40,000 people moved from homelessness to houses in the last decade, and they also added a lot more affordable housing units.
“Overall we’re making some progress and we’re housing many more people per year, but in order to stop the flow of people experiencing homelessness we need full state and federal partnership,” Putnam said.
Putnam spoke from the Kirkland Youth Service Center and the “Friends of Youth” building, a place where they work to house homeless youth and young adults. That age group is a focus for Putnam’s organization “All Home King County” which is continuing its effort to solve this national problem. He said moving forward their focus will be on funding. He said he is satisfied with recent investments made by the city of Seattle, and King County, but he still wants more support from the state and federal government. He also hopes more shelters and permanent housing options will be considered.
For more information on how you can help you can find different opportunities on the website All Home.