County has a plan to reduce homelessness

The Pierce County Council has approved a plan to address homelessness countywide.

Immediate steps include establishing a regional office on homelessness and spending $9 million on short-term strategies. Among the latter are a pilot bus pass program and funding case management services for 1,000 people who are transitioning out of homelessness. Also on the short list of immediate action is the establishment of a shelter for temporary housing and transitioning people into permanent housing. The shelter’s location hadn’t been decided in mid-March, but it will be in an underserved, unincorporated area, council members said.

The council last year requested the plan’s development in the hope of creating a system in which any person entering homelessness has immediate access to shelter and a process for returning to permanent housing.

Also in 2021, the council allocated $253 million to fund housing and homelessness programs, including $19 million for affordable-housing development and $22 million for developing a future micro-home village.

About $65 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act is earmarked by the county to fund homeless resources such as increased shelter space and emergency shelters, and foreclosure prevention counseling.

The plan’s implementation will be overseen by the county’s Human Services Department, including an advisory board.

“We look forward to working with our community partners and creating safe homes for our unhoused residents,” said Heather Moss, the department’s director.

The county has “never had a true plan to end homelessness,” said Councilman Derek Young. “This is a unified approach created by people with lived experience, experts in the field, and service partners dedicated to finding homes for everyone.”