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Major Funding to Expand Housing and Services for Region's Homeless Families

More than $4.5 million will fund 180 new Sound Families affordable, service-enriched housing units in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: 206.709.3400

SEATTLE -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced more than $4.5 million in new grants that will expand housing and services for the region's homeless families or families at risk of becoming homeless. The grants, funded through the Sound Families Initiative, will help create 180 new units of affordable supportive housing in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. This final grant round to support new housing units nearly completes the foundation's $40 million Sound Families investment.

Recent estimates indicate that as many as 26,500 Washingtonians are without a home or safe place to sleep on any given night. Families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population nationwide, and nearly half of all people staying in homeless shelters in King County are families with children.

"In the past six years, thousands of families in our region have moved successfully to stable, permanent housing thanks to the good work of Sound Families grantees. These organizations help put families back on the path to self-sufficiency by providing affordable housing paired with critical on-site services, such as job training, counseling, and life skills classes," said Katie Hong, co-chair of the Sound Families Initiative and interim director of Pacific Northwest giving for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Created in 2000 by a $40 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Sound Families Initiative has reached its goal to triple the amount of service-enriched housing for families in the three-county region. Including the new grants, Sound Families has funded 1,445 new units and served more than 2,700 children and 1,500 families.

The 11 new Sound Families grants were awarded throughout the region:

  • King County: a total of $1,720,000 for 74 units awarded to the Church Council of Greater Seattle, Family Services of King County, First Place, Intercommunity Mercy Housing, Muslim Housing Services, St. Andrew's Housing Group, and Valley Cities Counseling and Consultation.
  • Pierce County: a total of $1,127,500 for 44 units awarded to Helping Hand House, Multi-Service Center, and the Tacoma Rescue Mission.
  • Snohomish County: a total of $1,730,000 for 62 units awarded to Intercommunity Mercy Housing and the YWCA of Seattle-King County-Snohomish County.

Initial outcome data collected by the University of Washington's School of Social Work shows that most families find and keep permanent housing and greater stability after exiting Sound Families programs. Two-thirds of the families moved into permanent housing as they left the program, employment rates steadily increased (from 27% to 49%), and families' incomes improved by more than $1.00 per hour between the time they entered and exited the program (on average, 13 months). Sound Families will release a final comprehensive evaluation report at the end of 2007.

Earlier this year, the University of Washington's School of Social Work released a Sound Families evaluation report focusing on specific needs of children. "Breaking the Cycle: Serving Homeless Children in Supportive Housing Programs," found that help for children is limited and just one-third of the Sound Families programs had staff to focus solely on children’s needs. The report indicates that children clearly benefit from stable housing: after settling in Sound Families housing, children changed schools less frequently and missed fewer class days. Nearly two-thirds of parents in the study reported that their children were doing better in school once the family was housed. In response to these findings, new grants to Valley Cities Counseling and Consultation, Family Services of King County, and Helping Hand House will support programs that place a greater emphasis on serving the unique needs of children in homeless families.

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