There has been a great deal of focus on homelessness for a number of years and effort by government on how we can eliminate this problem. When we think of homelessness, more often than not we think of the people on the corner or in an encampment. Those of us in government often hear from our constituency demands to find a solution to this problem.
The City of Tacoma is doing something about it. A couple of weeks ago, I went to the “Stability Site”, part of Tacoma’s strategy to work on homelessness. The site is actually tents within a larger tent. We met with staff inside of a fenced area but outside of the large tent. There were a number of trailer-type buildings including bathroom facilities, showers and laundry. There were also a number of sleeping units, small attached individual units where a number of people resided. Inside the large tent were 80 small tents where the homeless resided. Each person had a large lockable container (similar to our plastic garbage receptacles that we have at our homes) for them to keep their belongings. Some even had dogs, their companions, and one of the reason many do not go to shelters.
I want to highlight what happens while the people are lodging at the stability site. First it is a safe, clean, drug free environment. Second, the non-profit community comes in to offer a number of services i.e. job readiness, substance use treatment, mental health treatment and housing assistance. There have been a number of people that have cleaned up, moved into housing, have been connected to treatment providers and learned what it takes to get and keep a job. And there are a large number of people on a waiting list to get into the stability site, an indicator that many people do not want to be on the streets. What they need is someone to reach out and guide them as they move into stability. That is what Tacoma has done… maybe the County should do the same.