Gates Foundation Joins Others in Goal to Cut Homelessness
Abiem then worked for two years as a cook at a retirement home, but she never earned quite enough money to afford her own apartment. She became homeless after the youth housing where she was staying made her leave when she became pregnant.
She then bounced around, staying with four different friends and her foster mom through the birth of her son, Nassir. She remembers "window shopping" outside on winter nights as she waited for friends to get off work.
"When I was pregnant, I didn't have a place to live, so I was just running around between friends," she said. "It was hard for me to go house to house and to old friends. I keep them worried ... that I may give birth [at] their house."
Spending some nights with her foster mom in Mount Vernon and other nights with friends in South King County made it tough to be in West Seattle consistently for her job, and she lost that, too.
Abiem is now at Katharine's Place, in a transitional apartment for homeless families in Rainier Valley, but her two-year term ends in December. She is about to give birth to her second son. Katharine's Place had so many people on its two-year waiting list that it closed the list to new applicants in January.
That reflects a rise in the number of homeless families in 2008 over 2007, especially in South King County.
"The trend lines have gone in the wrong direction, period," said David Bley, director of the Pacific Northwest Initiative at the Gates Foundation. "We need to go about tackling the problem differently than we have in the past."
For one thing, there's not enough emphasis on preventing homelessness by keeping people in affordable housing. Only 3 percent of the $200 million is used for prevention, he said.