“I haven’t seen a significant improvement in the condition for the homeless in this area for at least 2014, probably in the last ten years,” said Mr. Eric Hamm of the homeless problem in Grays Harbor. He made his comments at Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting in Montesano. Hamm represents the Olympic Beacon Group, a newly-formed non-profit advocacy group “helping low income and homeless on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State” according to its Facebook page.
Hamm was on hand to speak to a supplemental budget item on the commissioners’ agenda related to the Homeless Housing Fund. The Fund amount is $412,000. The amendment records additional revenue and expenditures associated with new housing grants from the Department of Commerce and increases appropriations for 2014 bills paid during the current year, according to Budget Director Brenda Sherman. Hamm wanted to know where the money is/has been going and how the homeless in Grays Harbor are being helped.
“The list that I have is very … narrow. It doesn’t say where the money is going to help these individuals,” said Hamm. He did not specify what “list” he was referring to. He said, “I haven’t seen a significant improvement in the condition for the homeless in this area for at least 2014, probably in the last ten years.”
Of the homeless problem on the Harbor Hamm said, “It’s worse than when I left.” He indicated a time frame of about 10 to 20 years ago. Hamm said, “Someone’s dropped the ball somewhere.” Citing a lack of laundry and shower facilities and other issues, Hamm described the Aberdeen homeless living conditions as “atrocious.”
Commissioner Vickie Raines agreed, explaining that the funds the county has are considered “dedicated funds.” They are in the form of grant funding. She said that what the commissioners were doing in relation to the supplemental budget item on Tuesday’s agenda was moving funds from revenues to expenditures so bills can be paid. “It’s procedural,” Commissioner Cormier said.
Raines explained that grant funding also has requirements specifying that the funds must be spent in a certain way. She also explained that some of the funds go through CAP in the form of Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) monies and cited examples of a people who’d been helped through the program. “It’s not as if we give each city X amount of money. That’s not how it’s done.”
Raines said the county is in the process of putting together a Ten Year Homeless Plan (see link below). “Our goal is to help as many people as we can, but those individuals need to want our help, and that’s not always the case.” Raines said, “Not everyone, unfortunately, wants to make those changes,” like agreeing to follow the rules of specific organizations or private charities that have programs or resources in place to help the homeless.
Representatives from the Department of Public Health and Social Services explained that a Ten Year Homeless Plan is underway. Scheduled for completion in December, the plan will culminate with procedures and recommendations that will be presented to the Board for action. “This is a process” a rep said. “It’s complex and will take some time to implement.”
Commissioners Cormier and Raines indicated a willingness to receive further input and feedback on the plan and process. Commissioner Wes Cormier offered to go through expenditures line item by line item with Hamm in another venue and look at where the money under discussion has been spent.
Commissioner Raines said, “We appreciate your opinion, Mr. Hamm.” The motion to approve the supplemental budget of $412,000 for the Homeless Housing Fund passed unanimously. A supplemental budget item of $2,020,000 for the Public Health and Social Services Fund was also approved.
Founded in March 2015, the Olymnic Beacon Gropup seeks to bring together various non-profits in the region to help assist the homeless. Its mission is “To serve the Olympic Peninsula by helping the low income and homeless and advocating for their rights.” For more information: (360) 580-7137 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.