Last week, the Everett Rotary Club dispensed a one hundred thousand dollar grant to Catholic Housing Services, to be applied to the first of Everett’s permanent supportive housing project. Construction, originally slated for July of 2017, is presently noted to begin in the autumn of this year.
The supportive housing facility is aimed at providing low-barrier housing to the chronically homeless who reside in Everett. In a recent Point In Time count conducted by the Snohomish County Human Services, Everett was found to be home to 47% of all homeless individuals accounted for in all of the county. According to the city’s website, the “count found 231 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness in the county, including 114 in Everett.” Chronic homelessness, for their purposes, is defined by the criteria of having been living on the streets for at least a year, or have experienced homelessness three times within a four-year period.
While there is cost up-front for the construction, it mitigates the long-term problems of having to serve such individuals, and the costs to taxpayers in order to meet those needs. “Chronically homeless individuals are often victims of crime and illness, and therefore often frequent utilizers of emergency systems, including police, fire, EMS, jail and the hospital. Their use of those resources is very expensive because those systems are ill-equipped to address their underlying social and health needs. Getting them off the streets and into housing reduces their impact on the community, and can provide the stability they need to begin seeking treatment and taking other positive steps. The "Housing First" model has successfully been used by other communities in Washington State and across the country to house and support the chronically homeless…”
Addressing the underlying, pervasive issues of homelessness in an effort to eradicate it is the equivalent of removing an obstacle that you yourself may have encountered in a more individual setting. Though oversimplified, imagine that everyday you left the house, you fell through or ran the risk of tripping over a badly deteriorated porch; you won’t ever fix the problems by sidestepping or attempting to pass overtop. You’d replace the porch and fix the problem rather than risk continued injury.
This $100k will be applied to a community room within the facility, which will be named after Rotary Past President Steve Saunders and his wife Jo, whose estate funded the gift.
The community will be a modern complex, with parking, staff and an outdoor space. The ultimate goal, of the ‘Housing First’ model is achieving long term stability for the homeless population locally. This is not a treatment center, and allows access to the homeless who need housing without first achieving traditional sobriety or treatment, instead surrounding them with professionally trained case managers, resident services, and steps to follow in order to gain their own long term stability. Per the website, “This model has consistently been shown to be more successful for chronically homeless individuals than programs that require residents to be sober or on a treatment regimen for mental illness before they qualify for housing. With the security and support of housing, individuals are better able to focus on individual goals that promote positive outcomes in their lives.”
The housing reduces the vicious cycle inherent with mental health and homelessness; rather than hoping that a homeless person secures rides, resources, and has ready access to outlying locales that offer treatment, this increases the likelihood of getting them to their programs and allowing them to benefit from direct support. The leases also have built in measures the preclude the residents from engaging in harmful behavior, and if they do, may lead to their ultimate rejection from the site. The severity of the response will rely heavily on the circumstances of the individual and what precipitated their behavior.