Tacoma-Pierce County Tackles Homeless Issue

07 Jun 2018 10:03 AM | Deleted user

Why take on the issue of homelessness?  It is a problem that everyone is talking about, which doesn’t seem to be getting better despite the resources being invested.  

The League of Women Voters of Tacoma Pierce County spent almost a year building partnerships to collaborate on community forums on the issue of homelessness.

After holding a series of successful civil conversation forums, the League of Women Voters of Tacoma-Pierce County and their community partners NAACP, AAUW, and RAD (Restoring the American Dream), decided to do a deep dive and some actual problem solving around the issue of homelessness. 

Homeless CoLab Workshop  – October 20-21, 2017

Led by League member Larry Seaquist the groups tried the “Community Laboratory” (CoLab) model  – a new method of engaging the public in a civil problem-solving strategic planning session. Based on role playing, the model gets to the heart of the matter very quickly.

Using the CoLab model, LWVT-PC and partners held a session at which approximately 40 stakeholders currently involved in the homelessness issue met.

The participants included shelter providers, city and county government officials, realtors, churches, McKinney-Vento Program liaisons, United Way, educators, library representatives, economic development experts, law enforcement, people experiencing homelessness and others.

Working in mixed groups, each table was assigned a role: Opportunity-Makers, Homeless Communities, Rule-Makers, Housing Owners and Makers, Community Protectors and “Ministers of Chaos” (nay-sayers).

Together, these stakeholders arrived at four consensus recommendations:

  1. Declare an emergency in the county and conduct a marketing/education campaign within the Pierce County community
  2. Establish a core group, a multi-jurisdictional, multi-sector hub, responsible for homelessness countywide.
  3. Provide support in the form of transit passes, access to hygiene and cell phones with expanded data service.
  4. Create a super-village of housing plus support services and a system to graduate people from homelessness through a phased approach back to permanent housing.  Use vacant commercial buildings to create this and employ homeless people to do part of the work.

The stakeholder participants asked the LWVT-PC to take the lead on implementation of these recommendations. 

As LWVT-PC began working the issues within the political system, an opportunity arose in partnership with the State Historic Museum to use the Tacoma Convention Center for an event and a forum was scheduled.

Facing Pierce County Homelessness: Creating "HomeFULLness”  - April, 28, 2018.

In line with the previous year’s activities, the partnership of four organizations, under leadership of LWVT-PC, held a public forum on the issue of homelessness, calling attention not only to the problem, but also to potential solutions.

The one-day session included two plenary sessions, one at the beginning and one at the end, a keynote speaker from the Gates Foundation, and two sets of four concurrent sessions on specific issues:

  • Hard Times in Hooverville:  Homeless Settlements During the Great Depression
  • Closing the Affordable Housing Gap
  • Addressing Homelessness through Community Organizing
  • Road to Nickelsville (film and discussion)
  • Health Care and Homelessness
  • Racial Inequity in Homelessness
  • Coordination of Services for People Experiencing Homelessness
  • Homeless Youth
There were 47 speakers and moderators involved in this program as well as 35 volunteers to support it.  Approximately 300 members of the public attended. Funding was provided by a number of community organizations.

The next step, political action, was taken when LWVT-PC sent a letter to the Pierce County Council outlining the recommendations stemming from the public feedback at the event. LWVT-PC then presented to the results of their work to the Pierce County Council's Human Services Committee. You can see their presentation online (starts about 20 minutes in).

If you have questions about these event or about holding events like them in your community, please contact Cynthia Stewart, President, LWVT-PC.

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