ARTICLE: Group asks Puyallup to spend more on homeless aid (News Tribune)

By on July 25, 2011. Posted in .

Helping Hand House is a part of this consortium of advocates asking the City Council in Puyallup to consider designating 1% of the City’s general fund towards addressing housing solutions for Puyallup’s homeless residents. This article briefly touches on the main points of the draft plan.

Group asks Puyallup to spend more on homeless aid
SARA SCHILLING; Staff writer
A group of social service workers, church leaders and other advocates for the homeless in Puyallup has a plan to end the problem in East Pierce County’s largest city.

They’re requesting a significant increase in city funding to help make it happen.

“Whether housed or un-housed, we all share Puyallup together. The solutions we need involve all of us working together,” said Ted Brackman, co-founder of the Puyallup Homeless Coalition, which helped create the strategic plan.

The City Council Tuesday night listened to the group’s presentation, which included a request that the city take steps toward setting aside an amount equal to 1 percent of its general fund for social service programs.

Using figures from this year’s budget, 1 percent would equal about $360,000. The 2011 budget set aside $55,000 for those types of programs.

Council members didn’t make decisions at Tuesday’s study session or commit to increasing homeless funding. But several said they want to see something done.

“It’s my belief, and it has been for a long time, that we’re all basically a heartbeat away from being homeless,” said Councilman Kent Boyle.

Councilman John Knutsen said the proposal will take “a lot of consideration” at a time when the city budget is tight.

“I’m sure all of us feel and understand. It’s just how to do it,” he said.

The council has talked about homelessness several times over the last couple of years. Last fall, it approved an ordinance, in response to a new state law, that allows religious groups to host temporary camps. The homeless coalition has proposed starting out with a “safe park” for people living in their cars to park overnight, though none has opened.

The strategic plan estimates there are 484 homeless over the course of a year in Puyallup, and hundreds more at risk. The figures are based on a homeless count in January.

There aren’t enough shelter beds in Puyallup to serve them, the plan says. In the colder months of November to March, 190 beds are available each night, the plan says; that drops to 160 beds from April to October.

The advocacy group proposes a multi-faceted response that includes stepping up prevention and support services, and working with providers to increase emergency shelter and limited-time housing. It also asks the city to create incentives to encourage developers to build more affordable housing.

The plan asks the city to gradually step up funding over four years to equal 1 percent of the general fund. It calls for a citizens advisory board to help guide where the money goes, as well as more collaboration with schools, churches and nonprofits.

The cities of Tacoma and Sumner have similar amounts of homeless per capita as Puyallup but contribute a greater share of their general funds to homeless programs, the plan says.

“Housing is a key element in stabilizing people’s lives,” said Kent McLaren, an architect who helped draft the 16-page document.

“It costs a lot to do nothing about homelessness,” he added, referring to the impacts on hospitals, police and schools.

City Manager Ralph Dannenberg said he expects the plan to come up as the council discusses the 2012 budget. The budget process has just barely started.

Sara Schilling: 253-552-7058

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