Case Study Sector
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in coordination with public sector partners from the Puget Sound region, Washington state, and the federal government, launched the Sound Families Initiative in 2000 with the ambitious goal of tripling the supply of transitional housing with support services for homeless families in Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties; three of the most densely populated counties in western Washington State. Starting with a $40 million commitment from the foundation, Sound Families grew over seven years to include more than $200 million in public and private funds.
To date, more than 1,500 families have been served by Sound Families. The majority—68 percent—went on to secure stable and permanent housing. Incomes rose significantly for almost half of these families, reliance on TANF dropped, and children’s lives improved.
Sound Families also stimulated, encouraged, or even created many significant changes at the organizational and systems levels. Most notably, the local housing authorities obtained a waiver to allocate federal Section 8 rent subsidy to nearly all of the apartments funded by Sound Families.
Despite these achievements, family homelessness persists in our region; experts estimate that as many as 20,000 families experience homelessness each year in Washington State, and that number has remained steady in recent years. And while Sound Families was not designed to curb the overall rate of family homelessness, the lessons learned from the families who benefited from the Sound Families Initiative are important for the larger community to understand as we seek to better serve at-risk families in the Puget Sound area.
This report documents key organizational and systems level changes and accomplishments that facilitated the creation of nearly 1,500 new units of supportive housing, and offers candid reflections on what was learned along the way. Perhaps more importantly, the report also recommends a set of concrete action steps that can be taken as we continue our shared efforts toward ending family homelessness in Washington State.
- Northern America