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City of Seattle
Gregory J. Nickels (former Mayor)

SUBJECT: Survey to gain better understanding of homeless needs

4/13/2009  11:00:00 AM
Julie Moore, Office of Housing, (206) 684-0604
Jared Erlandson, United Way of King Co. (206) 461-3742
Bill Block, Committee to End Homelessness (206) 263-9001

Survey to gain better understanding of homeless needs
City, community groups partner
to listen to people who are homeless

SEATTLE -Hundreds of volunteers will survey unsheltered homeless people in Seattle tonight to better understand the needs of people who are homeless and the barriers they face to finding permanent housing.

The Homeless Needs Assessment is a joint effort coordinated by the city of Seattle, United Way of King County and the Committee to End Homelessness in King County.

“In our efforts to end homelessness, it’s important that we give a voice to people who are on our streets, to reach out and understand what challenges they face and what services they need,” said Mayor Greg Nickels.

About 500 volunteers have been recruited and trained to participate in the assessment. Between the hours of 9 p.m. and midnight, teams of three volunteers will talk with every person they see on the street. Volunteers will not make any assumptions about people they meet and will ask everyone if they are sleeping indoors that evening. Those who are not staying in a home or shelter will be asked if they are willing to participate in a confidential, voluntary survey.

With the technical expertise of the University of Washington, the survey will provide statistically valid information about the unsheltered homeless and the needs of people living on the streets of Seattle. Other large cities have conducted similar surveys. For example in Toronto, the results of an assessment revealed that six out of ten people surveyed were not on a waiting list for housing-a problem that was able to be remedied.

The Needs Assessment will add a new level of information to existing reports, such as the One Night Count of homeless people in King County, and the Safe Harbors Homeless Information Management System.

“Under the Ten-Year Plan, we’ve created more than 3,300 units of homeless housing, which is more per capita than any other city in the nation. We know, however, that just building more housing is not the answer. People need services and other support,” said Bill Block, project director for the Committee to End Homelessness in King County. “The Homeless Needs Assessment will help us better understand the barriers faced by people on the streets.”

“With the help of hundreds of volunteers, this effort will help to inform our strategies,” said Jon Fine, CEO of United Way of King County. “United Way of King County is pleased to partner with the city of Seattle and the Committee to End Homelessness.”

The city of Seattle allocates more than $40 million a year to services for the homeless. The Homeless Needs survey will provide important insight into how resources can be used most effectively to prevent and to end homelessness, by seeking information, such as what services people use or need, how they learn about programs and what experiences they’ve had to face.

“It is particularly important for us to learn how people make transitions and understand how they enter and exit homelessness,” said Yong-Pin Zhou, associate professor at the University of Washington, which is providing technical assistance for the survey.

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