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King County program helped 4,000 people from becoming homeless

It's now been a year since King County voters approved an initiative aimed at keeping youth and families out of homelessness.

The numbers are in -- and county leaders say a new program aimed at homeless prevention has had great success in its first year. The “Best Start of Kids” initiative prevented 4,000 people from becoming homeless.

King County Executive Dow Constantine spearheaded the effort that is focused on specific individuals and works with that person and family on a case by case basis trying to figure out where they need help and what it will take to keep them from living on the streets.

“What we all in the community need to understand about homelessness is the most important thing is preventing it. The way we’re going to end family homelessness is to prevent families from becoming homeless in the first place,” Constantine said. “So rather than having a one size fits all solution we start with the question, ‘What is it going to take to keep you and your family housed right now?'”

Lola Cortez is one of many who received help from the initiative. Her family received financial help as well as assistance with a roommate.

“It’s just a blessing because many people need help, and they don’t feel like they’re left behind. I just thank god for this program,” Cortez said. “I thank god that they are willing to work with people so that they won’t be homeless. I never, ever want my child to be homeless. That’s not a good thing. No child should ever be homeless.”

The program costs about $1,300 per case, which is far less than what it would cost to get a person out of homelessness.

Of the 4,000 people helped, nearly 2,500 of those people are kids under the age of 18.

“That means that we’re avoiding the trauma that comes with homelessness, the adverse effects on brain development that can actually last a lifetime,” Constantine said.

The initiative partners with two dozen community organizations so that no matter where the need may be case managers are able to assist the individual and family.

“That might be catching up on back rent or it might be helping with transportation so you can get to the job you already have,” Constantine said. “Everybody’s story is different and one of the keys to the success here is that we are providing trusted community partners with flexible funding and funding case managers who can deal with those individual circumstances to provide just the right amount of help to help somebody help themselves.”

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