Gates Foundation Joins Others in Goal to Cut Homelessness
"It feels totally out of whack from what we know works — it's easier to keep people in a home than put them back once they've lost one," Bley said.
Bley said other needed changes include providing permanent housing as soon as possible, rather than "transitional housing," and standardizing the fragmented systems used to determine what families need, so they get access to the same services no matter where they go for help.
"Some people will need a lot of services and some people will need nothing more than a rent subsidy," he said.
The program also will focus on improving the economic prospects of people with low incomes or no income, connecting them with work-force development and job training. And more money will be invested in getting better data on homeless families to understand the problem.
"It is difficult to assess progress if you don't have good numbers," Bley said, "and it is very difficult to serve individual parents and children well if no one is tracking their needs, the support they get and the progress they are making."
"Gains being lost"
The Gates Foundation has previously given $40 million in grants to help homeless families and learn how to better tackle the problem. Grants to help homeless families are part of the foundation's Pacific Northwest giving, which totaled $33 million in 2009.
While that money is only a fraction of the billions the foundation gives away globally, it does make it the largest private human-service grantmaker in the state, said T.J. Bucholz, Gates Foundation senior program officer.
Washington is studying the practices of other communities that have managed to reduce homelessness by 40 to 50 percent. But even the most effective programs are seeing some erosion of progress.
"That's what was really frightening about the current economic climate," Bley said. "We see a lot of those gains being lost in those communities that were very innovative."