Housing affordability and homelessness top community concerns in South King County Community Needs Assessment
Residents of South King County had the opportunity to share their concerns about the most pressing needs in our community through the recent Multi-Service Center (MSC) Community Needs Assessment (CNA). The CNA found that of those surveyed, housing affordability and homelessness were the most pressing needs in South King County.
The survey asks respondents to identify whether or not they have received services from MSC. The top three issues identified by both clients and the community at large were identical. The top issues identified in all surveys were 1) housing affordability, 2) homelessness, and 3) alcohol/drug/gambling abuse. Client surveys identified unemployment and energy costs as the next most pressing issues, while all surveys combined identified mental/behavioral health and low pay as the next most pressing issues.
“It’s not surprising that housing affordability and homelessness top the list of concerns of both MSC customers and the community,” says Robin Corak, MSC CEO. “Housing stability is important to finding stability in other areas of life. Imagine how difficult it would be to go to school without a place to study, or to find a job without a place to get ready for that job in the morning. MSC has served thousands of people over the years in our affordable housing programs which has resulted in individuals improving their financial stability by being able to obtain and maintain a living wage job, children improving their ability to achieve academically, seniors experiencing improved health, and tenants experiencing an overall reduction in reliance on public subsidies and/or government funded programs.”
This year’s survey also included questions around barriers faced to self-sufficiency. Respondents commonly pointed to demographic barriers such as race, disability, age, and gender, as well as situational barriers such as being homeless, having a criminal background, or unemployment.
Unfortunately, poverty has not improved in the last three years. According to the 2014 American Community Survey (ACS), 14.2% of South King County individuals (106,126) live below the Federal Poverty Level ($23,550 for a family of four at the time of the ACS). This is a 22% increase in the number of people living in poverty in South King County since MSC’s last CNA.
MSC and other agencies continue to adapt to decreased funding from foundations, corporations, individuals, and local governments. These decreased resources are only making it harder to serve clients at a time when need is far outweighing capacity. MSC is focused on diversifying its funding sources and being good stewards of community support.
MSC is continually striving to adapt and implement programs to meet the needs identified in the CNA. MSC currently offers a wide array of services designed to address homelessness and housing affordability. These services include rent assistance, emergency shelter, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, rapid re-housing, and low-income permanent housing for individuals, families, seniors, and veterans.
Youth are at a distinct disadvantage in the current economic climate, and many South King County youth are experiencing an increased risk of not completing high school, involvement with the juvenile justice system, and/or inability to find employment. With a grant from King County, MSC, as part of the Federal Way Youth Action Team, has begun an outreach and case management program targeted to young men of color (ages 12-24) who have been involved with the juvenile justice system or who are identified as being at risk. The goal of this program is to not only lower recidivism and prevent juvenile justice involvement, but to help these youth to complete school and continue on to college or apprenticeship programs.
The CNA survey, conducted every three years, was distributed to community partners, clients, MSC staff, and MSC’s board of directors and was also available online on MSC’s website and Facebook page last November. After compilation of results the CNA report was presented for approval by the MSC Board of Directors in December 2016. The data and analysis from the CNA will be incorporated into MSC’s strategic plan.