When the weather gets severe – especially in the extreme cold of winter – it’s critical to help our unhoused neighbors stay warm and dry. For PROTEC17 members at the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA), connecting people experiencing homelessness with shelters and resources to help them out of the cold and into permenant housing is a crucial part of their jobs.

Tamika Alston, Lead Systems Advocate and PROTEC17 member, leads a team of direct care support specialists at KCRHA who build relationships with clients in King County experiencing homelessness. This includes getting clients “document ready” so that they have the appropriate government documents needed to secure housing, employment, and other services, which can often be overwhleming.

Recently, Alston’s team collaborated with a community partner to open 40 hotel rooms in both north and south King County during the cold and snowy weather that hit the Puget Sound at the end of November. Through the help of the KCRHA, these 40 people will now be on the path to permanent housing. In addition, people living at several encampments in Seattle, including one near Lumen Field, have all recently been housed.

Other programs at KCRHA collaborate specifically with the severe weather shelters that open when the temperatures drop below freezing, including overnight and day centers in both municipal spaces, churches, and community centers.

While the KCRHA is only a bit more than a year old, the agency has been able to intake close to 1,000 clients this year, with about 250 of those who’ve never used any formal resources and have never been in the social services system.

For Alston, who has been unhoused herself, the lived experience of homelessness allows her, and many of her KCRHA colleagues, to connect with clients on a personal level and offer hope.

“It takes just one second of hope to change someone’s mind about the direction they want to go,” said Alston. “That spark of hope says ‘I’m here for you,’ and ‘I’m a peer walking with you’.”

Alston, and all of her colleagues, are passionate about the work they are doing to help end homelessness by working closely with clients and listening to their needs. If you’d like to learn more about the programs and services of the KCRHA, please visit: kcrha.org.