Mayor Nelson Announces Homelessness Response Actions

Mayor Nelson Announces Homelessness Response Actions
The City of Edmonds has identified strategies that can be implemented immediately to help address the ongoing regional issue of homelessness.
 
“We created the Homelessness Task Force to bring together a group of local experts to assist the City   with addressing the lack of available shelter, creating strategies to prevent homelessness, and the unlawful use of public spaces. This situation affects far too many people and is present across our entire region, not just Edmonds and we need to work together toward solutions,” said Mayor Mike Nelson.

The Homelessness Task Force was a collaboration between first responders (fire and police), social workers, and local shelter and faith-based institutions. Further, it included current and former Edmonds City Councilmembers and three City staff representing Planning and Human Services. Nine of the fourteen task force members are Edmonds residents.

After reviewing all of the task force recommendations, the City has prioritized taking action in three areas: increase regional and countywide shelter options, homelessness prevention assistance,  and addressing the overnight and unlawful use of public space. 

Increase Regional Shelter Availability
Currently there is no shelter facility within the Edmonds city limits. There is one shelter in South Snohomish County, located in Lynnwood, that has space for 17 women and children and has a two to four month waiting list.  To increase the urgent need for shelter capacity, the City will be collaborating with Snohomish County and neighboring jurisdictions to develop long-term solutions.

In the short term, the City is evaluating temporary shelter options such as motel vouchers and extreme weather emergency stations.

Homelessness Prevention Assistance 
While American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds are currently being distributed, the Human Services Department is establishing long-term plans to ensure those vulnerable to homelessness have appropriate services and support in navigating the complex system. 

One area of focus will be to centralize the coordination of behavioral health workers and resource navigation so our community paramedics, police, and social workers are working collaboratively, providing a more efficient response to needs. Another area of focus is to establish a rental assistance program that will run beyond 2025 when the Federal ARPA funding has expired.

Prohibit Unlawful Use of Public Space

The unlawful use of public spaces (such as parks and other public property) is an area the taskforce explored and is of high interest to residents. 

“At my direction, the City Attorney has drafted an ordinance prohibiting overnight and unlawful use of public spaces. City staff are currently reviewing it and will soon be bringing it before the City Council,” said Mayor Nelson. 

Before enforcing any unlawful use of a public space, the city has an obligation to provide shelter for persons experiencing homelessness and property storage facilities (this stems from a recent Federal Court case).

Additional City Assistance Already in Effect 
The City is currently distributing need-based household grants to residents who are vulnerable to losing their current shelter. This program was identified by the task force as a recommendation with immediate impact.  

The City has allocated $3,000,000 in Household Support Grant Funding utilizing ARPA funds from the federal government. Residents whose household earns less than 60% of the Edmonds median income are eligible for up to $2,500 to help defray expenses such as rent, childcare, utilities, medical bills, car repair bills or other household expenses. 

“We are accepting applications for emergency support now. Residents who are struggling with household expenses should visit the City of Edmonds website and begin the application process. Keeping people in their homes is a top priority for the City of Edmonds Human Services Division. If you are in need, please apply. This is a grant, not a loan, meaning you are not asked to pay it back,” said Deputy Parks, Recreation, Cultural Arts and Human Services Director Shannon Burley.

The Edmonds Urgent Needs Program is a new collaboration between the Human Services Division and the Edmonds Police Department. The City Human Services Program Manager and the Community Engagement Officer have created care packages to be in police vehicles to be distributed by officers with the Edmonds Police Department when they encounter someone who is unsheltered.

“Building relations and offering support is a critical first step in helping an unsheltered person consider and connect with available resources” said Police Chief Michelle Bennett. “Our officers in uniform are consistently out and about making contacts within the community, it is important to establish trust. We appreciate this resource as a means to demonstrate that we care and are here to help.”  
These care packages include hand warmers, rain ponchos, hygiene wipes, a small first aid kit, a stocking hat, knit gloves and scarf, and wool socks along with an informational card listing available resources and contact information in multiple languages. 

Mayor Nelson concluded, “These are important actions our City is taking to address homelessness in Edmonds. We know that it will take a collaborative regional approach to effectively address this complex issue. With a fully funded Human Services Department we can minimize and prevent homelessness in Edmonds.”

 

The complete list of recommendations from the Homelessness Task Force is available online at https://edmondswa.gov/cms/One.aspx?portalId=16495016&pageId=17685650.

Residents who qualify for household grants can find the application here: https://edmondswa.gov/cms/One.aspx?portalId=16495016&pageId=18017545.