The human aspect of the housing debate: Half 1 – New metropolis division works to assist these in want


 The one situation that generates essentially the most intense dialogue in Edmonds is housing. Residents and metropolis officers have debated for years relating to points associated to how and the place individuals ought to stay — from housing density to homelessness to reasonably priced housing —  and the way a lot town ought to assist those that wrestle to afford to stay right here. What follows is the primary in a collection of My Edmonds Information stories on the human service impacts of our housing challenges.

Simply two phrases — human companies — sparked controversy when Edmonds launched its first human companies division in 2020.

Deputy Parks Director Shannon Burley oversees town’s human companies division.

Two years later, the fledgling division has a program supervisor, it has survived proposed finances cuts, it has employed a contracted full-time social employee and it’s creating wanted group partnerships. “We’ve got simply been via 12 months of actually changing into very educated in regards to the issues and the attainable options,” stated Edmonds Deputy Parks Director Shannon Burley, who oversees the brand new division. “We’re a lot additional alongside to supply fast assist.”

The Starting

However these 12 months didn’t cross simply. Town’s human companies net web page defines its mission:

“This program is meant to serve Edmonds residents in want of help, steering, and assist discovering sources throughout a wide range of points for the broad demographic spectrum that contains our metropolis. The Human Providers program is especially targeted on serving to join people and households which are financially or housing-stressed with native and regional sources that may assist.”

In previous My Edmonds Information reader feedback, an argument was made that “town nonetheless doesn’t want a human companies division and will trigger extra hurt than good.” One other commenter requested: “I want to understand how many individuals town anticipates a social employee would serve in our group. Is the quantity so nice {that a} full-time employees particular person is required?”

Debate continued earlier this yr, when the Edmonds Metropolis Council amended the 2023 finances in order that an extra $200,000 initially accredited for human companies be allotted particularly for housing. A number of councilmembers argued throughout their Feb. 8 assembly that the human companies program carried ahead into 2022 a complete of $409,000 out of its $550,000 finances for 2021, and consequently “there is no such thing as a want so as to add further cash.” The cash went as a substitute into town’s homeless fund for use in partnership with neighboring cities to create shelter area.


The finances debate was considered one of a number of challenges for the fledgling division. Burley stated that from “December to March, we weren’t clear what our finances was,” as town council slogged via three dozen proposed citywide finances amendments. “That meant a number of conferences with councilmembers educating them,” she stated,  “and on the finish of the day, the end result was optimistic.”

Some of the seen indicators of progress is that the brand new division simply employed a social employee. My Edmonds Information has discovered that the social employee is contracted via Compass Well being Neighborhood Transitions staff, has accomplished coaching, and is predicted to start out this week. The division estimated the highest finish of the wage and advantages package deal vary may complete about $130,000; we don’t have last figures on that but.

“Actually, the nice half in regards to the partnership is that we acquire entry to their (Compass Well being’s) total staff,” Burley stated. “This particular person is an outreach specialist who’s supported by two MSWs (individuals holding Masters of Social Work levels) all within the Neighborhood Transitions program.” It implies that Edmonds joins an outreach staff that features Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo and South County Hearth. My Edmonds Information has additionally discovered that town is contemplating hiring a second social employee, who might spend most of their time working with the Edmonds Police Division. That isn’t on this yr’s finances.

The newly employed social employee joins Human Providers Program Supervisor Mindy Woods, the primary member of the brand new division, who was employed in 2020.

Human Providers Program Supervisor Mindy Woods

Based on her job description, Woods was employed to  “create and handle a sustainable, complete human companies program to attach individuals and households in Edmonds who may have totally different sorts of companies. These embrace low-income households, seniors, veterans, disabled people, home violence victims, immigrants and refugees, at-risk youth, and others. As well as, she can be answerable for discovering and making use of for grants to assist these in want.”

Increasing Human Providers

The creation of the human companies division got here after town did an in depth research of homelessness in 2018 and up to date it in 2021. Town contracted with Edmonds-based Koné Consulting to arrange the report. It surveyed organizations that labored with unhoused individuals within the metropolis, asking about homelessness, households that spent greater than they may afford on housing, and “hidden homelessness” – individuals ‘couch-surfing with pals or household in addition to these residing of their automobiles. It additionally requested about companies these organizations offered.

Koné Consulting, Consulting Report findings, 2021 replace

The report additionally discovered that:

The Koné report really useful that Edmonds:

– Enhance human companies staffing

– Enhance emergency shelter

– Create a useful resource hub

– Create a group grant program

– Enhance reasonably priced housing choices

As well as, the Koné report stated:

“There additionally seems to be a necessity for the Metropolis to interact with group residents to boost consciousness in regards to the situation of homelessness in Edmonds. A theme amongst survey respondents was combatting misimpressions, equivalent to the thought homelessness doesn’t exist in Edmonds or that low-income individuals don’t stay in Edmonds, is vital for gaining public assist for the packages and companies the Metropolis offers.”

In February 2022, Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson introduced “short- and long-term methods to deal with homelessness” primarily based on plans crafted by his Homelessness Activity Power.

Subsequent Steps

Human companies officers estimates that 90% of Edmonds homeless are “invisible”– residing with pals or kin, sofa browsing or residing of their automobiles. A couple of — not more than 10 — have discovered locations at a neighborhood church automobile camp. Police and human companies employees inform My Edmonds Information that the quantity of people that truly attempt to stay “on the road” in tents or beneath tarps could be very small. Estimates officers offered recommend that these individuals quantity about 10-15 proper now. A few of these with out everlasting shelter have tried to arrange camps – as one man did outdoors the Edmonds library.

Edmonds police arresting “Charlie in Could 2021. (Photograph courtesy Edmonds Police Division)

 We referred to as him “Charlie” in our Could 2021 story. Police arrested the person when he refused to go away the camp. He has since discovered secure housing.

The girl residing on Edmonds’ Interurban Path in August 2021. (Photograph by Larry Vogel)

This lady camped out on a bench for a number of weeks close to Lake Ballinger that very same yr. Police didn’t arrest her and finally human companies employees discovered her medical assist and new housing. Edmonds doesn’t have tent or tarp encampments. Edmonds police statistics don’t present rising numbers of those that are homeless shifting into Edmonds, as Seattle and different communities crack down on the camps.

These residing on the road make up a tiny proportion of the main focus of Edmonds’ human companies division. Town’s new ban on public tenting and the usage of short-term motel vouchers have, to this point, confirmed efficient in serving to defuse that situation, town stated.

What Human Providers Program Supervisor Mindy Woods — and shortly, the brand new social employee — will give attention to is offering assist and sources for the a whole lot of individuals the Koné Report labeled essentially the most weak. These embrace those that should spend greater than 30% of their revenue on lease and others who’re nervous about dropping housing; those that can not afford meals; seniors on mounted incomes and veterans and other people with disabilities who want housing assist.

Earlier than the pandemic, the Koné research stories that one in 5 Edmonds residents have been thought of “cost-burdened” — their incomes couldn’t sustain with rising prices. Popping out of the pandemic, Koné stories that quantity is now two of each 5 residents struggling, particularly with inflation on the highest ranges in 40 years.

Burley instructed me her division receives 125-150 telephone calls quarterly from individuals who “are scared and need to know what sort of assistance is on the market.” That isn’t shocking, she added, “given the present scenario with the pandemic and lease and eviction moratoriums; hastily these are lifted, and persons are left behind.” A big quantity who name human companies, stated Burley, “are aged who simply didn’t plan for this.” Property taxes go up; utilities bills go up. “It takes so much for aged people to achieve out for assist,” she added.

Burley pointed to a different initiative that she stated has helped Edmonds households — the 2021 federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).  That federal cash has helped human companies present residents with family assist grants, with out making a dent within the metropolis finances.

Human companies is now working with Snohomish County to purchase a motel alongside Freeway 99 so it will probably present extra intense and fast assist. The objective is to get individuals out of shelters and into short-term residing areas as yet one more step within the course of of making secure housing. “It’s our objective down the highway that we received’t should put individuals into short-term shelters,” Burley defined. “We’re attempting to go a step above what I might name very, very short-term… and getting any individual on the trail to restoration or a greater scenario.”

Burley stated that Edmonds is making a full-court press on the county to purchase a motel — once more with federal ARPA cash — and switch it to a nonprofit to run. She stated that degree of supportive housing is “actually missing” in South Snohomish County. Verdant Well being has expressed “sturdy curiosity” in offering funding, Burley added. Such a web site, she defined, may present expert nursing care and  job sources and get individuals prepared to maneuver on to extra everlasting housing, just like the Housing Hope challenge that the Edmonds Lutheran Church is growing.

Town can also be increasing partnerships with each Verdant and Compass Well being, which have substantial well being and psychological well being sources accessible. Edmonds’ human companies webpage can hyperlink individuals to dozens of packages. Burley stated Edmonds is now “very, very plugged in” to the individuals who could make adjustments locally and that, in flip, has led to higher cooperation with neighboring cities. “Mindy and I’ve a objective,” she summed up, “that, if in two years, somebody wants shelter, we are saying no downside, we’ve got one thing.”

“We’ve had individuals probably not desirous to admit that we had homeless in Edmonds or in providing companies,” Burley continued. “We’ve got come to this point, and our neighboring cities are beginning to understand that we’re pulling forward, that communities are stepping up and doing extra and we encourage others to do extra.”

— By Bob Throndsen


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