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New Fund Helps Homeless Families and Children in Washington State

Up to $5 million in long-term funding through partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Medina Foundation, and The Seattle Foundation

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Rep. Ruth Kagi
(D-Lake Forest)
Kara Palmer
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: 206-709-3400

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Rep. Ruth Kagi (D-Lake Forest) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a public-private partnership to make Washington state the first in the nation to create a reliable, long-term source of funding for supportive services to homeless children and their families.

“This is a day to celebrate for thousands of families in our state who are without a stable home,” said Kagi. “Sound Families has proven that we can help families move from homelessness to stable homes and jobs. This fund will help us reach families in every corner of Washington state.”

The Washington Families Fund could top $5 million this year, with $2 million in seed money from the Legislature, $100,000 from the Medina Foundation, $25,000 from the Seattle Foundation and $1 million from the Gates Foundation, which is offering another $1 million in matching funds to draw in additional private donations.

“One of the top priorities for the Gates Foundation is serving at-risk families here in Washington,” said Greg Shaw, the foundation’s director of its Pacific Northwest program and co-chair of Sound Families, formed to created 1,500 housing units for homeless families and support services needed to move to a stable home. “We know that if families are given the right tools and support, their chances of breaking the cycle of homelessness dramatically improve.”

Hundreds of housing advocates and homeless families traveled to Olympia to celebrate the announcement on Housing Advocacy Day.

Gov. Christine Gregoire said, “I am very pleased to see the Washington Families Fund launched. Across our state hundreds of social services organizations are working diligently to help vulnerable families find stability once again. Only with a reliable funding resource – like the creative mix of private and public funds announced today – can we make sure that these service providers will be able to help at-risk families for the long-term.”

“As someone working on the front lines helping homeless families in Washington, I’m confident that this new fund will lead to fewer families sleeping in cars or in tents or on neighbor’s couches,” said Lorenzo DeVargas, family shelters program director for Share. “Organizations like mine now have access to stable and long-term funding, which will enable us to help hundreds of homeless families in our region move back to stable housing.”

Kagi said the successful birth and growth of the Washington Families Fund is due to teamwork not only with the Gates Foundation and homeless advocates but across party lines, with crucial support last session from Sen. Val Stevens (R-39th District).

Facts about the Washington Families Fund

  • The Sound Families Initiative proves the effectiveness of this approach. It was designed to create 1,500 housing units in the Puget Sound area along with services that help families move from homelessness to stable housing.
  • Early results from a case study of Sound Families show that:
    • 89 percent of families moved from transitional housing to permanent housing (fair market, public or subsidized housing);
    • 49 percent of families increased their incomes
    • 16 percent fewer families relied on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
  • The Washington Families Fund will be administered by AIDS Housing of Washington, supporting existing services and creating new programs statewide.
  • The fund will provide 10 years of financing for both on- and off-site support services tied to affordable housing.
  • Those services include job training, budgeting, parenting skills and counseling to recover or prevent substance abuse and domestic violence.
  • The Washington Families Fund recently released a Request for Proposal (RFP) to service providers seeking grants. The first round of awards is expected by June 2005. 

More information about the Washington Families Fund can be found at

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