Shelters critical part of network to move homeless to permanent housing

Special to The OlympianAugust 20, 2013 

I applaud The Olympian’s concern about homelessness in our community expressed in an Aug. 15 editorial, but I disagree with its conclusions about the county’s Home Consortium recent funding decisions. We had to choose among $5 million dollars in proposed projects when we had just over $2 million in available funds. We spread that $2 million over several projects that represent a balance between capital projects and ongoing services for people who are homeless or have very low incomes. We are working, as we have for several years, to create a coherent system of housing and related services to solve the problem of homelessness.

Interfaith Works’ proposals for both The People’s House shelter and Sidewalk’s rapid rehousing program are essential elements of an effective system for ending homelessness. Residents of The People’s House will be connected with rapid rehousing providers to move them from shelter to permanent housing as quickly as possible. Both Sidewalk, which serves primarily single adults, and the Family Support Center, which serves primarily families with children, have shown promising results in moving people from shelter or the streets to housing, and the Home Consortium has continued to support these programs at rising levels.

While we had insufficient funds to fully support them in this round of funding, we’ll look hard at supplementing what we’ve recommended for them with funds from the Consolidated Homeless Grant.

A shelter such as The People’s House is a critical part of the network of services it takes to move people from homelessness to permanent housing. The Home Consortium was grateful to see Interfaith Works step forward with a compassionate proposal to serve people who are otherwise sleeping in doorways downtown or out in the woods.

Over time, as more and more of the homeless are served by competent rapid rehousing providers, the need for shelters will diminish – but only if as a community, we are also successful at increasing the stock of affordable housing and permanent supportive housing for those whose disabilities mean they will always need some help to avoid falling back into homelessness.

Judging the Home Consortium’s progress by a single round of funding decisions doesn’t tell the whole story. We are making progress in our struggle to create an effective, coherent system of services that ends homelessness. We’re glad The Olympian — and a growing corps of citizens and volunteers — shares our sense of urgency about confronting this challenge.

County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela represents Thurston County on the County’s Home Consortium Board.

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