Pierce County Council announcement.
The Pierce County Council once again signaled its commitment to address the needs of the county’s most vulnerable residents with adoption of a Comprehensive Plan to End Homelessness that will serve as the roadmap for how to tackle the multifaceted issue of homelessness in the region.
Immediate next steps include establishing a regional office on homelessness to create a unified response and expending $9 million to execute short-term strategies outlined in the plan. That includes creating a pilot bus pass program and funding case management services for 1,000 people transitioning out of homelessness. Also on the short list of immediate action is the establishment of a shelter to provide temporary housing and wraparound services to transition people into permanent housing. Its location is not yet determined, but it will be in an underserved unincorporated area.
“The county has worked with community partners in the past to help address the needs of our homeless population, but we’ve never had a true plan to end homelessness,” said Pierce County Council Chair Derek Young. “This is a unified approach created by people with lived experience, experts in the field, and service partners dedicated to finding homes for everyone.”
Through legislative action in 2021 Council requested the plan’s development, citing the need for a comprehensive document to outline short- and long-term goals to address the complex needs and factors that contribute to people being homeless.
The adopted plan designs a system to end homelessness and achieve “functional zero,” or a state where any person starting a new homeless experience has immediate access to shelter and a permanent housing intervention.
Six goals outlined in the plan are:
- Create a unified homeless response system.
- Ensure interventions are effective for all populations.
- Prevent homelessness.
- Ensure adjacent systems address needs of people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.
- Meet immediate needs of people experiencing homelessness.
- Expand the permanent housing system to meet need.
“Council took bold steps at the end of 2021 when it adopted the biennial budget that included significant allocations aimed at increasing affordable housing options and reducing homelessness,” Young said. “We dedicated $253 million to fund housing and homelessness programs, including a $19.9 million set aside for affordable housing development in the county and $22.3 million for development of a future micro-home village for supportive housing.”
Council also used $65.6 million in one-time monies from the American Rescue Plan Act to fund community response and resilience programs with amounts explicitly dedicated to homeless resources like increased shelter space and emergency shelters, and foreclosure prevention counseling.
“We look forward to working with our community partners and moving forward in creating safe homes for our unhoused residents,” said Heather Moss, director of Human Services.
In addition to establishing the regional office on homelessness, the plan directs the Human Services Department to convene a plan implementation advisory board, requires a semi-annual report back to Council with updates on how the plan’s implementation is going, integration of the plan into existing county plans that address homelessness, revision of homeless prevention services eligibility by June 30, 2022, and development of a strategic funding plan by Oct. 31, 2022.