I am writing this memo to provide an update on how the Federal Way mayor’s Homelessness Task Force has been progressing.
First, however, I want to note that as the chair, I feel my responsibility has been to remain neutral to accommodate all perspectives on what is a highly controversial subject. The word “homelessness” means different things to different people, depending on their personal experiences and perceptions. My goal has been to maintain balance and avoid any extremes while guiding our task force.
Second, I must point out that there are many facets to the homelessness problem, which affects not only our local community but also our region, state, country, and indeed entire world. Realizing a long-term vision starts with understanding the root causes, identifying the imminent effects on the lives experiencing this tragic situation, and taking an educated, guided approach to solutions that are comprehensible. While the task force is not charged with the unrealistic goal of immediately ending homelessness in Federal Way, we are confident that our efforts will give us some short-term and long-term initiatives that will get us closer to that ultimate end.
After hearing a series of presentations that gave us all a general background on homelessness in Federal Way, the first thing we did was to brainstorm all the overarching topics, sub-topics, specific issues, and general issues that play into this issue. What we identified led to the formation of four smaller task groups, as follows:
1. State of homelessness in Federal Way (root causes and extent of the problem)
2. Resources and services currently being provided, gaps and duplications (housing and day services)
3. Effects on the community
4. Other services currently being provided, gaps and duplications
Group members chose which smaller task group they wanted to join and were then given outlines of specific expectations for each task group. They were also asked to look at what has and has not worked in other communities. They were given copies of the mayor’s charge letter and then went to work. Our sessions have been working sessions, in which task force members have been gathering research and data and going over work product. Public participation in or recording of our sessions would not be conducive to the busy, working atmosphere we have been fostering.
What we are trying to accomplish is coming together very well. I am confident that the hard work of the Task Groups is resulting in recommendations that will be of benefit to our community and that will provide ways to promote positive change. One of our intentions with HMCI (Homeless Mothers and Children Initiative) last year and with this year’s Homelessness Task Force has been to pull the community together to find solutions that do not have high price tags. It has been a general consensus that helping people find ways to help themselves has much stronger support than pouring money on a problem.
The task groups have been asked to submit their formal draft recommendations this week. Afterwards, we will compile the analysis and recommendations and bring them back to the whole task force for discussion during the next several meetings. We will then put it all together in our final report for the mayor by his due date of Dec. 21.
As always, I am thankful to be leading this group of amazing community leaders who all have the City’s best interests in mind and are demonstrating that at every meeting. Thank you for your patience as we pull everything together in these final couple of months.
Sharry Edwards is chair of the Federal Way mayor’s Homelessness Task Force.