We believe St. Vincent de Paul is one of the most effective agencies for homeless prevention in Seattle and King County. We simply do not tell our story as boldly as we should. That’s why we are going to be sharing more background stories and information on a more frequent basis. We know that we help keep thousands of people in their homes and off the streets. This is a huge benefit to all of the taxpayers, government agencies, and social service agencies in Seattle and King County.
A primary remedy for homelessness is preventing eviction. One could make the case for mental illness or drug addiction as a contributing cause but eviction, the loss of one’s dwelling and home sets into motion an avalanche of Byzantine systems and financial barriers that often doom the individual or families with children to single family homes south. The deck is stacked against many because of unscrupulous landlords and skyrocketing rents.
Fighting eviction is the cure and no one is poised to see and ascertain the level of need like our Vincentians who engage in close to 12,500 home visits annually. Our Helpline receives close to 49,000 calls and our food bank serves an additional 60,000 per year. Add in the additional 5,000 referrals from our Latino services and the hundreds of case management referrals.
Let us share this short story. Recently, one of our home visit teams was on a home visit with a mother and 3 children who lived in Section Eight Housing. (Section Eight housing is the federal government’s housing choice voucher program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments).
Her employer had cut her hours and she was going to be $150.00 short of her rent. The rest of her life was moving along without any profound concerns. We paid the additional rent and spoke to the landlord and kept this family in stable housing. When housing is lost the cost to the taxpayer is between $30,000 and $40,000 a year, depending on the length of time someone is in the shelter system. The cost to the family is often crippling.
We are the eyes and ears throughout King County that respond first to this crisis. Our partners at the 2-1-1 Crisis Line make a point of identifying St. Vincent de Paul as the agency that is the first responder. They say we also receive high satisfaction ratings from callers because of how we treat them—with compassion and dignity. Our 1,300 Vincentian volunteers engage in thousands of vital eviction prevention services every day that go unnoticed.