Office of Jani Hitchen, Pierce County Council, District 6 announcement.
If you follow me on social media, you have seen my posts engaging with the Pierce County community living, working, and playing on our military base. One organization that I have become very familiar with is the 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade (5th SFAB). Many of the 5th SFAB’s members live in and contribute to the Parkland, Midland, and Spanaway communities.
COL. Jonathan (Jon) Chung leads this organization, comprised of both commissioned and non-commissioned officers who after four years of service, continued their military careers by volunteering to be part of a unique group that focuses on a specific geographic region of the world.
I have had the opportunity to observe their training exercises and work in our community. 5th SFAB engages with our youth and thinks about what role the military base plays in the lives of families. District 6 has one of the highest rates of military families that engage with local governments and our school districts. Having a community who is willing and able to engage with our local governments is incredibly valuable.
You can learn more about this group by following them on social media. They are an asset to our community, and I am honored to be part of this partnership.
149th St. Encampment
While many in our county have continued to see encampments popping up, there had not been very many in the Parkland area that were visible. That has changed in the last few months, and my office has received numerous calls for action and questions around this work. I thought I would take a few minutes to share some specifics and thoughts moving forward.
The encampment across from Sprinker Recreation Center, located at 149th and C Street currently has a code enforcement action in progress. While the process started earlier this summer, the courts are now involved to find a solution. Pierce County deputies, code enforcement, planning and public works, and my office are waiting for the outcome.
One of the biggest challenges that our communities are facing is addressing where those who are unhoused can go. Sweeps occur when shelter beds are unavailable OR available bed cause the person to be separated from their people, pets, or possessions. Our county and non-profits are working incredibly hard to bring more units online, but it is a slow process. I am hopeful that before winter, we can increase the number of beds within current shelters and additional locations, add additional resources like safe parking and provide stabilization sites.
This problem has been building for a very long time. When the country shut down institutions, we did not provide a safe harbor for those who cannot live alone. Those without family, combined with the cost of living in our community has priced some individuals and families out of stable housing. Add to that the impacts of the opioid crisis – we have hit a perfect storm of need.
It took years to get to this point, and it will take some time to get out of this current crisis. We are intentionally looking at many new tools to utilize in our toolbox. A few of the newer ones are supportive housing happening in hotels, stabilization sites, safe parking, expanding shelter beds, and other types of temporary housing.
Another area needing to be looked at is more affordable and attainable housing. We allocated funds from several sources in the biennial budget to help create units in our county. Building takes time and for every unit we build there are dozens of county residents wanting to move in. More work will need to be done, and I know many are not satisfied with what they are seeing. But truly, there are no “perfect answers”. I am committed to looking at both parts of the opportunity before us.