tells what approaches work at Everett forum
EVERETT — There are techniques that work for homelessness and others that don’t, a national expert on homelessness told key stakeholders in a chat hosted by Mayor Cassie Franklin last week.
COVID-19, national divides in politics and the Recession have made today a challenging time for addressing homelessness, said Nan Roman, the President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
“There’s a lot to overcome at the moment,” Roman said from Washington, D.C. Any given night, there are 560,000 homeless individuals in America. The cumulative numbers have been creeping up since 2017.
A few strategies are known to help, Roman described:
• The “Housing First” model, which removes the barriers of drug use or alcoholism to receiving shelter, has helped hundreds of people who would have been otherwise rejected get services, as well as on the path to sobriety.
• Resources to provide individual shelter, such as vouchers for motel and hotel stays, versus congregate shelters, make a difference for people wary of entering a homeless shelter or avoid them altogether. Last year, the city disbursed $800,000 in hotel and motel vouchers using federal CARES Act money, Franklin noted.
• People with the highest needs should be focused on to receive the most help to get out of homelessness. While people with the lowest needs are thought to be easiest to lift out of homelessness, the people with the lowest needs often are most capable of pulling themselves out of homelessness on their own, Roman said.
• Racial disparities need to be addressed, as higher percentages of homeless individuals are people of color.
“The issue is really less about what to do, but to have more resources to do more of what we’re doing,” Roman said.
The city is working with its partners on projects to address homelessness. The latest venture is its Pallet Shelters pilot project, which if approved would create a cluster of 20 small individual shelters for people experiencing homelessness. The people would be placed there by social workers.
One of the largest challenges will be to provide more housing for all income levels.
Separately, Roman emphasized today’s schoolchildren will need pathways into the job market. Without jobs, it could result in a third large wave of homeless people in the near future, Roman warned.
The first wave of homelessness happened after the early 1980s deep recession, a double-trouble time when the national unemployment rate peaked above 15 percent and people also began being priced out of housing while the welfare social system shifted out from under them.
Human services leaders at the forum commiserated that they have to overcome a public perception that building more services or housing for homeless individuals will entice more homeless people to come to the city.
Homelessness data doesn’t show this axiom is true, Roman said.
Roman was guest speaker for the city’s second forum of its Rethink Housing series. The video is on the city’s YouTube channel at “City of Everett.”
The city’s two next chats will be Thursday, Feb. 18 at 6 p.m. and Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 1 p.m. Both will focus on housing near transit areas. See www.everettwa.gov/rethinkhousing for participation details.
The Rethink Housing discussions are to help shape recommendations for the city to have more equitable housing solutions.
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