By Janet Pope, Executive Director, Compass Housing Alliance
When we consider the escalating homeless crisis in Seattle, one figure stands out in bold relief. Approximately 500 families with small children are sleeping outside in King County.
As we work each day toward finding meaningful solutions to address the complexities of the homelessness issue, there is growing urgency to help the most vulnerable in this crisis—children. In seeking answers, we all grapple with a difficult question: What will it truly take to move children off the street and into a place they can call home?
There are no easy answers. It’s going to take a comprehensive and holistic approach. It’s going to take a long-term view and out-of-the-box thinking. It’s going to take people-centric and tailored services alongside an increase in responsive and affordable housing. The list doesn’t end there. However, the lynchpin to finding real solutions is collaboration across sectors and creating innovative and dynamic partnerships.
Growing Impact through Partnership
Why such an emphasis on cross-sector collaboration and partnership? Because it’s a model that works and homelessness is a problem that is greater than any one organization can address alone. Compass Housing Alliance draws on nearly 100 years of experience of serving people in crisis. We have been forging key relationships and alliances for the past decades. Drawing from long-term insight and perspective, we fundamentally believe partnerships are the most powerful tool we have as a community if we truly intend to have an impact on homelessness.
We’ve seen what a difference partnerships can make through the success of Compass on Dexter. Working with dozens of area partners, our affordable home for families in South Lake Union builds intentional community both for our residents and the wider neighborhood. Residents of the 72 units, the majority being families with small children, benefit from onsite case management services, a children’s center, an outdoor play area, and a shared community room. Our community room hosts partner organizations and the wider community for frequent events. This community-based approach helps challenge the stereotypes about people seeking housing stability and has led to a 98% resident retention rate since opening the building.
Strengthening Community Connections at Ronald Commons
The power of partnerships had a very personal impact for me last month as we opened doors to Ronald Commons in Shoreline, which offers 60 units of affordable housing and comprehensive support services for homeless and low-income individuals and households in the community. I not only had the great privilege to be among the architects of an inspiring example of this model of collaboration. I was witness to its impact, in my own neighborhood, where I grew up.
Compass Housing Alliance joined forces with organizations with deep roots in the community. We worked with Ronald United Methodist Church, which was eager to transform an underutilized piece of land into much-needed homes. Compass Housing Alliance purchased and developed the land and found a ready partner in Hopelink, who would provide essential, wrap-around support services and a food bank.
We then looked further afield, to local government, business and financial institutions, building bridges across sectors to transform an empty lot into our newest residence solution. Ultimately, there were many more hands at work, working together: from Beacon Development for construction support and local and King County representatives for community advocacy to funding partners at Bank of America, the National Equity Fund and King County Housing Authority. They each, in their own way, were instrumental to realizing Ronald Commons and clearing a direct path toward stability for homeless and disabled individuals, and for military veterans and families with children and pets.
Resources and expertise hail from many directions. By forging truly innovative partnerships, we can harness diverse and complementary assets to ensure community buy-in and greater opportunity. By working together, we can be truly catalytic.
The day Ronald Commons officially opened its doors, my heart swelled as I watched children swinging from the bars of the new outdoor playground. We had yet to cut the ribbon, but they were already finding their way toward reclaiming their childhood. At that moment, it hit home for me—literally and figuratively. This is the community where I grew up. And this is the most important work we can do: To a provide a safe, permanent and supportive place for children to live. And for children to call home.