Multi-Service Center sees lack of affordable housing, other trends

Multi-Service Center - Contributed photo
Multi-Service Center
— image credit: Contributed photo

Amanda Santo, employment and education director of the Multi-Service Center, gave a brief report to the Federal Way City Council’s Tuesday meeting, noting the city’s continued support of the organization is vital.

Santo also touched upon some of the trends the center has seen in recent years, as the local economy attempts to return to normal in the post-2008 collapse world.

“Last year, Multi-Service Center served nearly 48,000 individuals, and more than 17,000 households,” Santo said. “Thirty-eight percent served lived here in Federal Way, 81 percent of households reported incomes at or below 50 percent of the median income and 34 percent of households actually reported some sort of employment or wage in their household.”

Santo noted that funds from Federal Way help the center in three major categories: housing, food and clothing and employment education.

In Federal Way, Santo said that year-to-date, the center has helped 22 households and 36 individuals with “shelter and traditional housing” aid. In the center’s housing stability/rent assistance program, the organization has served, year-to-date, six households and 23 individuals.

Santo said the major trend the center is seeing is “there simply continues to be a lack of affordable housing.”

Along with this, households who may need subsidies to cover various expenses continue to get squeezed, because funding for subsidies continues to be limited.

For the food and clothing bank, Santo said that overall the center distributed 1.4 million pounds of food in 2013. Within the context of Federal Way, Santo noted that city funds are used to help families with small children, from birth to 2 years old, and that the city funds have helped the organization serve 1,100 children in the city so far in 2014.

These funds are especially important, Santo noted, because those early child items tend to be costly, and the help the center provides can help the families “pay other necessary expenses, such as rent or utilities.”

The trend in food distribution, Santo said, is a desire on the part of residents using the Multi-Service Center for more protein items, such as meat. Santo said that with the rising costs of many meat products, donations have been down, but that they’d “love to be able to distribute meat and other proteins on a more regular basis.”

Finally, the center’s employment education services help “support adults and youth prepare for a brighter future in today’s job market,” according to Santo. With the help of city funds, the center has been able to help 10 individuals so far this year, six of whom have gained meaningful employment as a result of the organization’s programs.

Last year, the center, with the help of those city funds, served 151 youth and young adults. The trends in this category are perhaps the most distressing, with Santo noting that those looking for jobs and who are age 16-24, are facing “complex barriers” to gaining meaningful employment.

Those complex barriers include “housing instability, a lack of a high school credential, lack of work experience, mental health issues and learning disabilities,” Santo said. “Housing instability continues to be a trend for youth and young adults in our community, with 10 percent identifying as homeless, and many more experiencing housing instability or needing housing resources.”

In a post-meeting phone interview, Santo clarified that 10 percent number, saying it was derived from the 151 youth the center served at both their Federal Way and Kent locations last year through their employment and education services programs.

She also noted that the number may be underrepresenting the true figure, because many of the youth they served didn’t self-identify as homeless, even though they had no fixed address, but were instead “sleeping on friends couches,” and things of that nature. She also reiterated that a significant number of those youth and young adults they helped were still in need of some sort of assistance with housing and housing-related issues.

To learn more about the Multi-Service Center, visit


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