UW Bothell hosts Family Resource Exchange event

BOTHELL — Providing solutions to the growing homelessness crisis in the Puget Sound region is becoming extremely difficult as the gap  between low paying wages and the cost for affordable housing continues to widen.
A newly formed coalition between Starbucks, United Way, Mary’s Way, Wellspring, and now the University of Washington, is doing its best to address the homelessness situation.
The group came to together on the UW Bothell campus Wednesday, Aug. 25 to host the Family Resource Exchange; a service designed to connect area families to housing options, job opportunities, financial coaching, public benefits, and special services for students experiencing homelessness.
Family Resource Exchange2Within Reach, WorkSource, Solid Ground, Hopelink, Neighborhood House and the Department of Social and Health Services were among the many community action agencies offering their services at the Family Resource Exchange. Bob Kirkpatrick/The Woodinville Weekly.
“We are thrilled to be teaming up with Starbucks, the University of Washington and incredible service providers to make this possible,” King County United Way Senior Director of Ending Homelessness and Poverty Lauren McGowan, said. “We at United Way believe everyone should have a safe, decent, affordable place to call home.”
McGowan said United Way King County invests more than $7 million a year to prevent and end homelessness in the region, and while mobilizing volunteers, business leaders, and community champions to help create a more effective crisis response system.
Family Resource Exchange 1Redeeming Soles, a Seattle nonprofit organization, provided footwear for the Family Resource Exchange held at the UW Bothell campus Aug. 21. Bob Kirkpatrick/The Woodinville Weekly.
“We believe that by investing in effective programs that help people access housing and income we can reduce the number of people living on our streets.”
The leading reasons for homelessness in the Puget Sound region and across the country as well, McGowan says, are multi-generational poverty and a lack of affordable housing.
“While many in our region are experiencing the benefits of the booming economy, people living near or below the poverty level are struggling to make ends meet.
“Housing costs continue to soar and wages for the lowest income people are stagnant. A major factor is that only 1-in-4 households’ that are income eligible to qualify for
rental assistance actually receives it. And people of color experience homelessness at disproportionate rates because of systemic racism in our housing, financial, health, and welfare systems.”
Society often labels homeless people as lazy individuals unwilling to work or having made bad decisions in life.
McGowan says her experience dealing with the issue tells her otherwise.
“That’s not the case. Many people are one missed paycheck or emergency away from losing their homes,” she said. “Some have faced health challenges or have untreated mental illness. Our crisis response system doesn’t have enough shelter beds or housing resources, so thousands of people in our region are forced to sleep in cars, tents, and on our streets. That is unacceptable and we are working to change that.”
According to a recent UW survey of food and housing insecurity across the University’s three campuses (Bothell, Seattle, Tacoma) an estimated 190 students lack a stable place to live. Nearly 25 percent of students have worried recently about having enough to eat. In the year leading up to the survey, an estimated 4,800 to 5,600 students experienced housing instability, spending nights in a vehicle, shelter or tent, or staying with friends.
“We know that some of our students are struggling to maintain stable living situations and reliable access to healthy food, especially as the cost of living has increased,” Sally J. Clark, UW’s director of regional and community relations said in a UW blog post. “We are glad to join in as part of the community to support stable housing not just for our students and their families, but also for our neighbors.”
McGowan believes everyone has a role to play in ending homelessness.
“One of the great things about the Resource Exchange is that it helps people see the struggles these families face every day and what resources are needed. We hope that inspires them to get involved.
“Something we all can do is vote for leaders at the local, state, and federal level who commit to investing in housing solutions at the scale of the crisis.”
The UW has plans host two more Family Resource Exchange events, one on its Seattle campus and the other at the Tacoma campus. The dates are yet to be determined.

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