After Mayor Jim Ferrell announced the creation of the Homelessness Task Force in April, he tasked them with researching homelessness, what causes it, and the best ways to combat it in Federal Way.
The task force released its report on Dec. 21, 2018.
The findings of the report begin with, “Our community and its leaders must start by abandoning any preconceived notions about homelessness and its causes.”
Cookie-cutter solutions do not work for this problem, according to the report, because homelessness is a comprehensive issue.
The task force also looked at how homelessness impacts the communities around it, and homelessness often creates an “us versus them” mentality, the report continues.
The homeless population are actually more likely to be victims of crime and violence, the report reads, because they are alone in the elements with little ways to protect themselves and their belongings.
“Simple daily living essentials that most of us take for granted are rare luxuries for the homeless,” according to the report.
The city’s senior policy advisor Yarden Weidenfeld presented the findings to the City Council during the special meeting on Jan. 2, shortly before the potential contract with Mary’s Place Seattle was voted on during the regular council meeting.
The council voted to table the final vote on Mary’s Place for two weeks so they could speak with Mary’s Place and legislators regarding this contract that would provide emergency shelter for local homeless women and children. The next scheduled vote is the next regular council meeting Jan. 15.
Sharry Edwards, appointed chair of the task force, said she was proud of the committee for all their hard work in researching this complex issue.
“This is the first step, and this was a lot of work,” she said. “We really broke down every aspect that we could possibly think of that affects homelessness and the community … we didn’t want to leave anything out.”
In the report, the task force offered two recommendations based on those impacted by homelessness: the homeless and the community.
For the impacts on those who are actually homeless, the task force had eight total recommendations:
1. Expand shelters in Federal Way so shelters are available year-round, and “make the shelter system and integral part of a continuum of care model.”
2. Create a community coordinated response.
3. Develop a community coordinated outreach program.
4. Create or expand online resources.
5. Increase the availability of affordable housing and the effectiveness of the coordinated entry system.
6. Increase the equitable delivery of services.
7. Partner with local agencies to install public phones.
8. Hire and train peer navigators.
The other recommendations given were around the impacted community, and they included:
1. Allowing a safe parking program, which would include allowing people living in their vehicles to have a safe place to park at night, such as a church parking lot.
2. Creating a group to coordinate clean-up programs for the local area.
3. Continue vigilant, collaborative, and mission-focused law-enforcement.
4. Better coordinate with criminal justice programs.
5. Prevent the re-establishment of dismantled encampments.
The report reads in part, “The observations and recommendations will be for naught unless we find a way to work collaboratively to address all aspects of homelessness, not just what appeals to a narrow interest or that only provides for a narrow approach.”
The report goes on to state that homelessness is a continuum, and it needs to be addressed as such.
Breaking down services into categories such as “in crisis,” “vulnerable,” “stable,” “safe” and “thriving” would allow the services to be specifically tailored to each homelessness case, the report continues.
Solutions are not temporary Band-Aids, the report reads. Solutions need to be able to meet individuals experiencing homelessness where they are, so they can be better served to hopefully pull them from their situation and get them on the way to a stable home and lifestyle.
More information and the in-depth report can be found on the city’s website.