More case workers needed to help tackle homelessness, group advises

Mar 4, 2013

More case workers are needed in Seattle to help move people out of emergency shelters into other kinds of housing. That’s one of the messages the Seattle City Council will hear today as they get an update on ways to tackle homelessness.

The Committee to End Homelessness in King County recently made a major shift in strategy. It will create temporary shelter beds in addition to permanent housing.

The task force that recommended that shift has some ideas on how to do that. One way to quickly free up beds is to focus on a small group of people who have been living for years in temporary shelters.

Jason Johnson is a planner with the city of Kent who’s on the task force. He says they discovered three things those long-term users of shelters had in common.

"One, they’re really poor. Two, they seem to be suffering from some kind of disability, whether physical or mental, and three, they’re a population that’s aging," Johnson said.

He says if shelters had more case workers to help find permanent housing for people like that, they could free up beds that are intended for short-term use.

The group isn’t asking the city of Seattle for any specific dollar amount yet. They’re presenting their recommendations to groups all across the county.

Johnson says they also want to create more emergency shelters in the King County suburbs. That would relieve some of the burden on Seattle shelters and allow homeless people in the suburbs to stay closer to their kids’ schools and jobs.