Washington’s Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program ensures that extremely low income people diagnosed with significant, temporary mental illnesses or physical disabilities can meet their basic needs like housing and hygiene while they are unable to work. Unfortunately, current funding levels are not enough to meet the true demand. As a result, county providers are incurring waitlists and eligible clients are not being served. A significant increase of $69 million for the HEN program is critical to match the statewide need.

HEN is both a frontline investment in our state’s behavioral health system and a critical component of our homelessness response systems in local communities. 81% of people eligible for HEN have a mental illness need and 40% are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness upon referral. While HEN is a highly effective program for preventing homelessness for extremely low-income people with disabilities, the current funding shortage is keeping people with serious needs from obtaining the stability of a home.

It is unacceptable to force disabled people to suffer the brutality of homelessness. People experiencing homelessness are exposed to life-threatening situations on a daily basis and have significantly increased barriers applying for federal Supplemental Security Income. We must increase funding for HEN so that more people can access the stability that the program provides. 

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