The county’s 10-year plan to combat homelessness is something Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson is onboard with, but he doesn’t support using former shipping containers as temporary housing.
At a special meeting last week, Cassie Lentz, of Grays Harbor Public Health and Social Services, gave a PowerPoint presentation on the plan, which outlines possible solutions to fight homelessness in Grays Harbor County.
The plan was devised by a number of local agencies, including Coastal Community Action Program, Catholic Community Services, Housing Authority of Grays Harbor, Neighborworks of Grays Harbor and the Union Gospel Mission.
The Homeless Housing and Assistance Act, passed in 2005, requires counties to come up with plans to reduce homelessness by 50 percent.
The plan for Grays Harbor is made up of five key points: coordinated entry, maintaining and expanding affordable housing resources, investing in housing for vulnerable populations, building capacity of housing systems, and increasing community awareness and discussion surrounding the issue.
A coordinated entry system, according to the plan, would “establish a countywide system for people experiencing homeless, creating a clear and accessible central point of entry for everyone seeking housing resources.”
Lentz talked of the need to invest in housing resources for those with mental health, substance abuse or cognitive disability issues.
“Affordable housing is a huge need in our community,” she said. “There’s a huge gap in supply and demand.”
Lentz also said that while doing research on the plan, it was discovered that 46 percent of Grays Harbor residents accessed Department of Social and Health Services resources in 2014.
“I’m definitely someone who thinks (homelessness) is a serious issue in our community, and I know most of the council, if not all of the council, shares that with me,” Mayor Larson said. “As (the county) works to get some of these projects going, I think the city of Aberdeen would be a great partner in helping them achieve their funding goals and (providing) support when they go to ask for grants.”
However, Larson made clear he is not in support of housing the homeless in containers, saying they aren’t up to city code.
“The city is in no way affiliated with the containers,” said Larson. “I know that’s something that’s been insinuated, but we are not involved in that.”
Tim Quigg, who lives in Pierce County but has local ties, recently purchased two containers that he was willing to give to the homeless. According to Larson, his concern is that containers don’t provide adequate housing.
“It would not be allowed in the city as a housing unit. It’s not something that fits into our zoning code,” Larson said. “It doesn’t have toilet facilities, it doesn’t have insulation.
“I don’t want people donating money or getting involved in that under the assumption that the city’s involved. I want it to be very clear that we support anybody doing anything to support a better socioeconomic condition in the city as long as it’s within the confines of the law.”