Seattle Homelessness Action Plan Essay

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Action Plan: Getting Homeless Families with Children and Homeless Single Women off the Streets of Seattle

Part A

1. Executive Summary

1.0. Overview

The problem of homeless in Seattle is likely to continue growing if no serious long-term interventions are instituted especially when it comes to enabling people to not only find, but also keep housing. Towards this end, there is need for a deliberate plan that seeks to find and highlight the appropriate long-term responses to the homelessness problem in Settle. It is important to note that homelessness afflicts not only those who sleep out in the cold and on hard concrete surfaces, but its impact often transverses far and wide. Homelessness bears significant economic, moral, as well as social costs. This is more so the case with regard to the innate human suffering occasioned by the same and the resulting wastage in potential.

1.1. Problem Statement

In response to the Honorable Mayor's pledge on 2nd June 1998, to the effect that the by Christmas the streets of Seattle will have no i) no homeless families with children or ii) homeless single women; this action plan sets forth strategies for fulfilling the Honorable Mayor’s pledge.

1.2. Course of Action

The current proposition of the City for addressing the problem of homelessness is more of a ‘control’ measure. In addition to emphasizing services for homeless individuals, the current plans and priorities of the City spotlight the role and relevance of roping in other jurisdictions in the funding of services that deal with homelessness. Towards this end, this document proposes the following strategic priorities:

i) Provision of suitable housing

ii) Enhancement of financial independence

2. Background

2.0. Quantifying Homelessness

Getting the actual number of homeless people is a complex undertaking that is fraught with many challenges. This report largely relies on a report published in February of this year by the Seattle-King County Homelessness Advisory Group titled, Homelessness in King County: A Background Report. In essence, the report will concern itself with two homeless categories, i.e. homeless families with children and homeless single women. King County has more than 5,500 homeless people – with 76.4% of these finding shelter in temporary housing and 23.6% being out in the streets on any given night. With single males being more likely to find shelter in the City, in comparison to any other group, the most vulnerable of the homeless population is likely to be turned away from temporal and emergency shelters.

Groups/Categories Sleeping on the Streets




Youth and Teen Parents


Single Adults


Table 1.0

It is important to note that although Seattle is home to a significant majority of King Country’s shelters, those who reside in the said shelters come from all corners of King Country. Only 10% of shelters for the homeless are located outside Seattle. The target of this report is the over 53.8% of the homeless people sleeping on the streets who happen to be homeless single women or homeless families with children. In actual numbers, this translates to approximately 700 persons.

2.1. Triggers of Homelessness

The exact triggers of homelessness are often hard to identify. This is more so the case given that homelessness could be brought about by the interaction of a myriad of factors. Some of the more obvious causes of homelessness are abuse, addictions and mental health related issues, inadequate affordable housing, and poverty. With regard to Seattle, three primary causes of homelessness have been identified. These happen to be; inadequate income, problems at a personal or familial level, and high housing costs.

2.1.0. Inadequate Income

The percentage of those living below the poverty level in King County is approximated to be 12.4%. This is higher than the United States’ percentage of persons deemed to be ‘below the poverty level[footnoteRef:1]. Those who fall in this category would find it difficult to make payments for a wide range of necessities including, but not limited to, education, health care, and of course housing. The median household income for King County is captured as $41,994. Those who fall below this median income may find it difficult to consistently meet their basic needs due to erratic paychecks or lack of employment, which effectively means that unforeseen events (such as accidents or illnesses) are likely to push such persons to the street.
[1: King County, “Median Household Income in King County and U.S.”, (1998). ]

2.1.1. High Cost of Housing

To understand the genesis of the prevailing high housing costs, it would be appropriate to conduct some background checks. The creation of the Office of Economic Development (OED) was key towards the enhancement of workforce development. In essence, this provided Mayor Norman Rice with the appropriate foundation to power through his social equity objectives. Together with the Seattle Jobs Initiative (SJI), many of those who lacked adequate incomes were able to access living-wage placements and postings. It is, however, important to note that the social equity agenda of Seattle was challenged by larger regional trends whereby the resulting economic growth ended up edging the living costs higher. Housing costs were also driven up. Currently, with their already strained means (see 2.1.0. above), those who are at risk of homelessness or those who are already homeless cannot afford the average rent of decent housing in Seattle. It is even worse for those who already have children (i.e. additional mouths to feed) and the single women who cannot pool funds with partners to be able to afford an average dwelling.

2.1.2. Personal or Familial Problems

Personal problems most homeless people face include, but they are not limited to, drug abuse and mental illnesses. It is important to note that although drug abuse has in some instances been seen as a consequence of homelessness, whereby those who find themselves homeless enter depressed states and resort to drug abuse, the same has also been designated as a homelessness trigger in Seattle. In this case, addictive tendencies are expensive to sustain and could make persons neglect their responsibilities such as the payment of bills. If left untamed, addictions could lead to job loss and disrupt familial relations. On the familial front, homeless people in Seattle are likely to be victims of psychological or mental abuse at home. Various forms of abuse (i.e. sexual abuse) could push the affected persons out into the streets.

2.2. Cost of Homelessness

There are a myriad of economic, social, as well as moral costs associated with homelessness. As per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ Article 25, housing is one of the rights deemed necessary for the maintenance of living standards necessary for general well-being. As a matter of fact, the various rights enshrined in the declaration, i.e. the right to health and the right to privacy could be easily compromised in the absence of decent shelter. At the individual level it is important to note that homelessness could lead to intense emotional and physical distress. Homelessness leaves individuals exposed to tough elements of nature and prone to diseases and insecurities. It is even worse for children, whereby their exposure to circumstances related to lack of shelter could seriously affect that moral as well as emotional and social development. It has been demonstrated in various studies that persons born in an unstable housing cycle are likely to end up being homeless as adults. In that regard, therefore, in addressing the problem of homeless families with children in Seattle City, a future problem will be averted. Towards this end, the City has a moral obligation to see to it that children are brought up in an environment that supports proper development.

Homelessness results in reduced quality of life for not only those who are homeless but for everyone else as well. This is more so the case given the issue of encroachment into both public and private space and related concerns such as perceived threats to safety. Tourism is also harmed by homelessness. Essentially, “people are less inclined to tour an area that seems ‘rundown’ due to fear of an increased crime rate and large drug use population”[footnoteRef:2]. Tourism is a revenue source for our City, effectively meaning that if the issue of homelessness is not addressed in due course, we could lose some proportion of a key revenue stream. [2: Johnson, Christopher, “Socio-economic and Environmental Impact of Homelessness in Olympia,” Washington. Environmental Health and Social Justice (March, 2016): 1-16. ]

Lastly, public resources also happen to be consistently drained by the problem of homelessness. This is particularly the case in Settle whereby….....

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HUD. (2018). The HOME Program: Home Investment Partnerships. Retrieved from

Johnson, C. (2016). Socio-economic and Environmental Impact of Homelessness in Olympia. Washington. Environmental Health and Social Justice, 1-16.

King County. (1998). Median Household Income in King County and U.S. Retrieved from, (1998).

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