The homeless population in south Thurston County is growing, and local leaders are trying to come up with ways to increase and improve affordable housing for them.
According to statistics provided by Thurston County Commissioner Bud Blake, there were 48 homeless people counted in Rochester, Yelm, Rainier and Tenino this year, a dramatic increase from last year’s count of 18.
Bringing more affordable housing to the area has long been an agenda item for commissioners, Blake said.
“It’s been talked about for the last 10 years,” he said.
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There may finally be movement, he said, as the county plans to focus housing resources in Tenino first, then spread out to Rainier and Rochester.
Converting dilapidated housing into liveable housing inventory and selling it to low-income individuals or families, using federal funds, is one option available to the county.
South Puget Sound Habitat for Humanity, which builds and refurbishes homes for low-income families, is accepting applications for housing repairs as well as for homes. Application forms are available on its website, http://spshabitat.org/housing-programs/program-interest-form/.
These housing programs, Blake said, should be packaged with social support programs to increase the likelihood that people will be able to retain their new homes.
Another tactic that the county could implement is a Community Housing Development Organization. Such an organization would include low-income people or their representatives, and make decisions on how housing funding should be spent, then follow through on housing projects.
There are already a handful of these organizations operating in Thurston County, but there are fewer applicants than there could be, said Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier.
Tenino is developing a plan to implement a code enforcement division along with community cleanup actions where they might identify people who could benefit from housing refurbishment programs.
There will be public hearings 1 p.m. Feb. 17 and 6 p.m. March 10 at the Tenino courthouse on code enforcement, and another meeting at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Tenino High School commons.