Leveraging 40 years of innovation, partnership & action to end poverty & income inequality

Mayor Mike Murray holds a press conference with co-chairs of the Income Inequality Advisory Committee, David Rolf of SEIU 775NW, and Howard Wright of Seattle Hospitality Group

Mayor Mike Murray holds a press conference with co-chairs of the Income Inequality Advisory Committee (photo from the Seattle.gov website)

2014 is Solid Ground’s 40th year of Innovation, Partnership and Action! It appears that this will also be the year our society recognizes that income inequality is a fundamental and worsening issue for the United States and the world. Income inequality is not a new issue to us. Solid Ground and other Community Action Agencies recognized long ago that poverty is a result of societal barriers and structures which favor people with privilege and oppress those without. Since the origins of community action, the poverty rate has not increased, but income inequality – including lack of income mobility – has grown greatly, especially in the last 25 years.

The severity of income inequality and its impact on all of us is why I readily accepted Seattle Mayor Murray’s request that I join his Income Inequality Advisory Committee. The 25 members of the Committee are charged with delivering an actionable set of recommendations for increasing the minimum wage within the City of Seattle. Income is, of course, important – and as we know well, just one of many factors that affect a person’s ability to thrive. I view these minimum wage negotiations as an opportunity to raise awareness and, hopefully, action on the larger issue of addressing opportunity gaps that prevent income and social mobility for all residents of King County and our state.

I appreciate that our new mayor has wisely identified that multiple strategies are needed to make Seattle an affordable and equitable city, including:

  • Increasing minimum compensation levels for low-income Seattle workers.
  • Ensuring universal health insurance regardless of employment.
  • Making affordable housing more available and closer to where people work.
  • Preserving and strengthening our public transit systems to connect people to jobs.
  • Creating a fertile environment for the creation and growth of new jobs and industries.
  • Offering education and training options structured to help working adults succeed and linked to better paying jobs in demand by industry.

Appropriately, these strategies specifically address the root causes of poverty and would positively impact many of the people who access our services. Innovation, partnership and action are what have enabled Solid Ground to be an agency with impact for 40 years. I’m confident that by working together with our public and private partners, advocating with the people living on low incomes across Washington State and in collaboration with our nonprofit peers, Solid Ground’s fourth decade will bring success in making an impact as an agency working to end poverty and income inequality.

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Rapid Re-Housing: The transition to permanent housing got a lot faster!

Image of keys to houseSolid Ground is participating in King County’s new Rapid Re-Housing for Families pilot created to help homeless families achieve stability.

Rapid re-housing works to shorten the time families and individuals spend in homelessness, and provides the tools they need to stabilize their lives in permanent housing.

Instead of weeks spent in shelters, and months or years spent in already-packed transitional housing programs, rapid re-housing addresses the causes of homelessness with tailored case management, housing services and employment assistance.

Rapid re-housing pilots and programs conducted across the nation show promising results. A study of 14 communities in seven states, produced by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, revealed that 85% of families participating in rapid re-housing programs exited into permanent housing. Of these families, only 4% returned to homelessness within the year. In comparison, only a little more than half the families in transitional housing made the move to permanent housing; 11% of those who transitioned were homeless by the end of the year.

Chart depicting the differences in outcomes between shelter and transitional housing stays, and rapid re-housing

Building Changes, King County DCHS, United WayCity of Seattle Human Services Department, and Seattle and King County Housing Authorities are funding the Rapid Re-Housing for Families pilot that launched in November 2013.

Career Connections, Neighborhood House and YWCA will provide Employment Navigators for the pilot. These Navigators will work with other resources already in place, such as WorkSource, to help families find employment and build skills with job training and education.

In 2012, the Washington State Department of Commerce released a study on Employment Outcomes Associated with Rapid Re-Housing Assistance for Homeless DSHS Clients in Washington State. According to the research, rapid re-housing halted the upward trend in unemployment, and clients earned more than other homeless families not in the program and were more likely to be employed a year after intervention.

Whether through a sudden crisis such as job loss or a medical emergency, for many, homelessness is an isolated incident.

Since there are a myriad of causes of homelessness and barriers that prevent the transition to permanent housing, there cannot be just one way to prevent or remedy it. Rapid re-housing, for some, may be all they need to get back on their feet. For others, it could take long years of intensive support and assistance to get to that point. The more options available to those experiencing homelessness, the higher the likelihood they will overcome it.

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