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From Don Fornoff, the Bishop’s Taskforce on Homelessness:

It is quite evident that homelessness is a national issue, an issue showing up in every state and local jurisdiction. It is complicated and not simply involving people without a place to live. Income disparities, poor and inadequate housing stock, addictions, social disconnections; the list goes on and on. Everything is related. The Bishop’s Task Force exists because we are faith-based, looking to assist the down and out in our communities. We have faith that we can make things better for the people currently in and heading toward homeless. Each parish can do something, participating as a part of the whole.

Nationally, the National Low Income Housing Coalition a memo to Congress outlining the ongoing need for federal investments in affordable, accessible, and long-term solutions to the crises of homelessness. The memo shows the social costs of housing instability, as regards racial equity, economic mobility, and access to healthcare and education. Solutions include bridging the gap between incomes and housing costs; expanding and preserving the supply of affordable housing; providing emergency rental assistance to stabilize families; and strengthening and enforcing solid rental protections. Nationally, there is a shortage of 7 million units of affordable and available housing.

So, how is Washington State doing? Mixed results! Lawmakers invested more than $1 billion in housing, including $400 million in the Housing Trust Fund to build 3,000 new permanently affordable homes. Legislation also addressed racial covenants to help with down payments and closing costs. Legislation was passed intending to boost multifamily housing. There is also legislation to expand ‘middle-income housing.’ What didn’t happen was any meaningful provisions for rent protection, which nationally was recognized as a key to preventing more homelessness. It remains to be seen what that impact will be.

Locally, we know that this issue is ever-changing and fluid. That is why it is so important for each parish in the Diocese of Olympia to review their outreach for effective and up-to-date conditions on the ground. I’d like to list the actions being taken by St. Anne’s parish who have reported their activities to the Task Force.

Sheryl Haase of St. Anne Washougal reports they are conducting safe parking and curtain-making for tiny houses. Their activities include setting up a resource hour 2 times a month, starting out as a way to get their Safe Stay Care Campers connected to groups to get them on the rolls for housing. All campers are now registered with the Council for the Homeless. Invited and coming to the resource hour are Council for the Homeless, Columbia River Mobile Health, Lifeline, Recovery Café, and Refuel. All bring counselors, nurses, and advocates. Sheryl and her parish cohorts put up flyers and mail out flyers to try to get the unhoused in the community to come and get the help they need.

There is more going on and more to be done, as I hope to outline in the future.

The information in this piece comes from reasonable and reliable sources. We should recognize the Seattle Times for its ongoing work in researching various aspects of homelessness.

Your servant,
Don Fornoff
Member Bishop’s Task Force on Homelessness

News from the Front: On Reducing Homelessness

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