Homeless camp on the street - Generative AI illustration
Homeless camp on the street - Generative AI illustration
Fix Homelessness How to rebuild human lives

Report: Homelessness Data Reveal Reasons for Collapse of King County Outreach Program

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Download the report here.

Shoddy Data Hid Failed State of Homelessness Program, Study Shows

Seattle, WA – A study from the Fix Homelessness Initiative of Discovery Institute reveals the expensive failure of the government to run a now-defunct downtown outreach program in Seattle funded by the region’s leading foundations and corporations. It also reveals a lack of transparency from non-profits receiving millions in contracts from King County to address homelessness.

“Information about the downtown program is hard to come by,” said Caitlyn Axe of Discovery Institute “But the data we have reveals ineffective use of millions in funding while private nonprofits are accomplishing far more with far less.”

Axe’s research examined the multi-million dollar Partnership for Zero (PfZ) homelessness program of King County (metropolitan Seattle) to see how it compared to private, non-profit efforts. The study shows that county government-run mobile outreach efforts apparently spent nine times as much for each homeless person successfully housed as does the Salvation Army and three times as much as the Union Gospel Mission. (The non-profit Salvation Army receives some public funds, while the Union Gospel Mission does not.)

King County’s program in 2022 spent $20,000 for each person housed, a figure that has risen to $26,000 this year.

“Homelessness has not been reduced, but has grown,” added Axe. “Moreover, it is unclear that people listed as “housed” stayed housed.”

The Discovery report also examined data from 19 non-profit groups that obtain funds from the King County for the purpose of obtaining housing for the homeless. Ten groups provide data on their results, either online or in response to inquiries. But nine provide no data on their success at housing the homeless, even after repeated requests.

Making the situation worse is a public relations campaign from a coalition called “We Are In”. Comprised of many of the largest foundations and corporations of the Seattle area, We Are In funded the County’s Partnership for Zero program and even sponsored a Facebook quiz that stated that housing a homeless person costs $10,000. But the source given for that figure is not any program in Seattle, but an outdated study from Central Florida.

Axe added that, “Discovery Institute contends that the ‘Housing First’ emphasis of the government — and, sadly, the private cheerleaders for this policy — effectively promotes housing only, and that isn’t working well at all, not in Seattle, nor around the country. We need to address the root causes of homelessness like addiction and mental illness, and we need transparency and data that allows us to support organizations that are successfully and cost-effectively housing people.”

Download the report here.

Discovery Institute

Discovery Institute promotes thoughtful analysis and effective action on local, regional, national and international issues. The Institute is home to an inter-disciplinary community of scholars and policy advocates dedicated to the reinvigoration of traditional Western principles and institutions and the worldview from which they issued.