West Coast City Sees Early Success With Homeless Pilot | News, Sports, Jobs


Pictured is a row of pallet canopies in Everett, Washington. Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist toured the shelter village in July, which provides temporary housing for the city’s chronically homeless population. Photo by Eddie Sundquist

Could a pilot homelessness program recently rolled out across the country serve as a model for city officials here?

It’s one of several options, said Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist, that he is considering at the site.

Sundquist toured a shelter village established in Everett, Wash., in early July, where 20 64-square-foot homes were built. The need for temporary housing in Everett — with a population of about 112,000 and located 25 miles north of Seattle — grew during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Julie Willie, Everett Community Development Director.

Willie said the city’s mayor, Cassie Franklin, also recognized that there was a chronically homeless population who didn’t want to go into typical community settings and weren’t yet eligible for housing. The city began looking for ways to complement existing programs to help people in need of housing.

At one point, the city underwent a $40,000 cleanup of a homeless encampment on its riverfront. With the arrival of COVID-19, Willie said there was an influx of homeless people in need of assistance.

“Everything has changed,” Willie told The Post-Journal in a recent interview. “Our population no longer just kind of hid in the forest and next to our river bank. We really had an influx of people into our downtown area and we had more complaints from businesses and residents about behavior that was of concern. This only goes on with the behavioral health challenges and the fentanyl challenges that we have.”

Along with Franklin, Sundquist is part of the Mayors Innovation Project, a national network of mayors committed to shared prosperity, environmental sustainability, and efficient government. During the group’s summer meeting in Tacoma, Washington, Sundquist drove to Everett to tour the city’s pilot project.

“I was blown away by their work” said Sundquist, noting that pallet shelters are just one of many “Variety” of options the city can explore for the growing problem of homelessness.

“I see that as potential” he said.

Everett had already attempted to create a shelter village. The city partnered with the Everett Gospel Mission, which operates its own homeless shelter, to build 20 tiny homes built by Pallet — a Washington-based company. The village was built next to the mission on a vacant lot that already belonged to the city.

Each shelter, Willie said, has water and electricity and can later be cleaned and reused in emergencies like earthquakes. The shelters are designed to provide temporary housing for the chronically homeless.

There is access to food, showers and staff, and partnering with the mission as the managing authority ensures safety and adequate sanitation, she said.

Elsewhere, Los Angeles opened its first pallet shelters in early 2021, and a May report from NPR said LA spent about $48 million setting up 10 villages.

“We care deeply about those who are homeless and struggling, but we also care deeply about our residents and our businesses, so we really try to have a balanced approach to meet the needs.” Willie said and later added: “People don’t sleep on the sidewalks and don’t build camps on the sidewalks and the community is really happy with the protection program and has no complaints about it at all.”

However, a report this spring questioned the benefit of homelessness. Pallet founder and CEO Amy King said on NPR’s All Things Considered that she would be “I am very happy to celebrate the day we closed the doors of this store because our product is no longer needed.”

Leveraging funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, Everett is in the process of expanding its pilot program, adding an additional 20 pallet shelters and a separate village for women and children through a partnership with Volunteers of America. Houses measuring 100 square meters would be built for the women’s and children’s village.

Willie said the pilot program, which started in spring 2021, is designed to help the chronically homeless and is just one of several ways to provide shelter. Snohomish County, where Everett is located, is also planning to convert a former hotel into an emergency shelter.

“We don’t offer people permanent homes” said Willie, who estimates about 300 people in the city need shelter at any one time. “We are providing people with temporary housing so we can ensure they are safe and their children have somewhere to sleep and that they have some stability to move forward and find permanent housing.”

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