How do young people find places to live in the crazy Seattle housing market?

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You don’t have to live on the streets to feel the stress of Seattle’s ballooning housing market, now leading the country in home-price growth for over a year. Competition for affordable housing has crept into nearly every economic bracket, pushing long-time residents out of their homes and changing the face of our neighborhoods and suburbs as Amazon and others bring in talented work from around the world.

It’s no surprise, then, that Seattle isn’t teeming with affordable places to live for low-income individuals seeking to escape the streets.

However, there are a handful of options available, and that’s where our case managers are able to work their magic.

Case managers work with youth to navigate Seattle’s complex housing market and the programs available to help make housing affordable for young people trying to leave the streets. Together, case managers worked with over 100 youth find a stable place to live in 2016.

But, you might be wondering, where do these youth go with such a crazy real estate landscape surrounding us?

There are four primary programs and means for making housing available to help youth leave the streets, and your support helps youth find access to each through supportive relationships with case managers and staff.

1. Community Hospitality

While they aren’t the most common source of housing, programs that involve the community more directly are sometimes ways for youth to exit the streets.

We’ve partnered with Accelerator YMCA’s Host Homes to recruit members of the community who are willing and able to open a room in their home to a young person who is well on his or her way to affording housing, but isn’t quite there yet. These young adults are working and/or in school, and just need a few months of support to fully exit the streets when other programs don’t have space or overlook them as “too successful” to be in need of assistance.

Community support is one of the most relationship-centered ways for us to support youth on the streets.

(P.S. – If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a Host Home, check out this video & fill out the form at the bottom of this page. Someone will be in touch via email.)

2. Financial Assistance to Afford Market Housing

Imagine when you were leaving home to live on your own for the first time. You might have worked a full- or part-time job to keep on top of your monthly bills, but odds your parents or someone in your life was there to support you with rent or a phone bill if you needed help.

Financial assistance programs provide this kind of funding for youth who do not have a support system in their life that can provide for them in this way. Some financial assistance can help young people stay in housing by allowing them to make rent or pay utilities that month, or by providing 3-6 months of decreasing rent support as a young person works toward more financial stability on his or her own.

It acts as a safety net for individuals who might otherwise become homeless without support.

Home at Last is a program that recently helped Jesse get an apartment. The program offers monthly rent support until a young person no longer needs it.

3. Transitional Living Programs

Perhaps the most common type of housing assistance for youth, transitional living programs offer youth a stable place to stay for anywhere from 1-2 years.

These facilities range in what they offer, but most are community living spaces with private rooms and other shared spaces, like kitchens and entertainment rooms. Most require a small fee or only charge income-based rent, which is significantly more affordable than paying rent in Puget Sound and consequently frees youth to work or go to school while they save and plan for the future.

Frequently, these “TLPs” have a few community rules around shared spaces that encourage responsibility and consideration of others, much like campus dormitories would have for youth of similar ages who were attending college.

The apartments above the University District Street Bean offer affordable apartments as part of a transitional living program for young adults. There’s even a community garden on the roof, managed by the U-District Food Bank. (Image courtesy Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce)

4. Clinically Supportive Housing

Finally, these programs are similar to transitional living programs, but offer some kind of specialized support for residents with illnesses or addictions.

For example, one young man was able to find housing with financial assistance, but due to a mental illness was not able to thrive living entirely on his own without anyone to support him. His case manager helped him find a spot in a clinically supportive facility, where he receives clinical supervision by people who know what he needs to be successful.

It is a much more compassionate situation for him, because he is not only stably housed, but also relationally and clinically supported.

Unfortunately, these programs are rare and funding is limited. Many more young people could be successful with the supports these programs offer.

Clinically supportive housing provides youth who need mental health or chemical dependency support the opportunity to lead healthy, whole lives by offering necessary support as they begin to live independently.

Despite Seattle’s rapid expansion, we’re grateful that your support and partnership allows us to connect youth to resources like these programs so that they’re able to pursue their goals and get on to bigger, better, healthier, happier, stably housed lives.

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