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Uptick in homelessness noticed by Everett residents

Doug Ramsay photo

Tents and belongings of homeless campers block the sidewalk and a bus stop on Everett Avenue at the Interstate 5 underpass Aug. 14.

EVERETT — From single tents to small encampments, on the streets of Everett, homelessness is on the rise and it is attracting attention.
At a City Council meeting last month, Mayor Cassie Franklin and several council members noted an increase in calls and complaints they are receiving from residents.
“There are really noticeably more people living outside,
unsheltered in our city right now than there were even two or three months ago,” Franklin said during the July 14 meeting. “Addressing homelessness continues to be a top priority and we are taking it very seriously. Our team at the city is working with partners — the county, our health care providers, our faith based organizations and nonprofits — on solutions.”
In January 2020, volunteers with the county’s Point-In-Time snapshot found 300 people living on the streets of Everett. There was no 2021 count, however Julie Willie, the city’s community development director, said the Everett Police Department’s unit focused on homelessness issues counted 463 individuals experiencing homelessness between April and July. That unit, the Community Outreach and Enforcement Team (COET), includes social workers and police officers.
Liz Stenning, the executive director of the Downtown Everett Association that represents dozens of businesses, said the impact of the additional unhoused population predates the pandemic. 
The need for support exists citywide, she said, and will require more funding to address the multi-layered issue.
“We want people to feel comfortable coming to downtown Everett,” Stenning said. “A lot of times there is a perception of ‘that place may not be safe.’ Some of that is real, some of that is just the unknown, but we absolutely encourage people to come downtown to support the businesses.”
Willie said the city’s ‘no-sit, no-lie’ zone around the Everett Gospel Mission on Smith Avenue is not to blame. Enforcement has not begun, she said. The streets in the area are clear and many people left the area in March when the council first passed the ordinance.
“We didn’t have all this visible homelessness back then, it has increased since then,” Willie said.
The substantial rise has no singular root, Willie said.
Some people flocked to Everett as the pandemic shrunk outreach in different parts of the county. Others living on the streets came from Seattle, Willie said, in search of a safer place to sleep. More may be hampered by the continued limitations of state and federal social services, she said, that make necessary funds or documents inaccessible for the people experiencing homelessness.
“We bear a lot of the burden and a lot of these are chronically homeless individuals that we don’t yet have a lot really great services for yet, because it is a new population in our county in particular,” Willie said. “We are still developing resources and services to address their needs and help them to not have this negative impact on our community.”
The efforts are an attempt at a balanced approach of “… compassion and care for our most vulnerable, but also (having) respect and appreciation for our tax payers and our businesses that are helping us to do the limited amount of programming we can do,” Willie said.
Even then, the solutions are often temporary. When one encampment is cleared, and the people receive help by going to shelters or being provided a hotel voucher, Willie said, another group moves in with hopes of receiving similar assistance.
“The problem continues because we don’t have enough shelter,” she said. “The work keeps going, but we don’t have more pallet shelters to put people into. We need more resources to address sheltering this chronically homeless population.”




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