Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A review of the recent city Hearing on homeless encampment policy -- my emphasis on mental health services

Last night, the city council held a very important Hearing for those interested in city tent encampments policy.   From an earlier discussion I had with a planning commissioner, I thought the Hearing was to focus on three provisions of the amendment:  1)  a requirement on the hosts (e.g. St. Jude). or sponsors (e.g. Tent City 4) to allow access to human services, 2) consideration of background checks and 3) the term of the permit.  But, based on Hearing input, the council decided to hold a study session to review the entire amendment including length of stay.

I had four minutes to speak.  My ask was to 1) require better access of human services, especially those servicing the Eastside.and 2) put the burden of requiring access on the sponsoring organizations. rather than the host churches.  Based on past experience with St Jude, when the Father once committed to share Hero House literature with the residents Tent City 4 sat on it. In my opinion, the requirement for access will produce better results if it's placed directly on the sponsor. Though host churches have good intentions they have many other things to do.  >>

At least 20-30% of the homeless have mental illness.  Mental illness is pervasive in my immediate and extended family and I myself have a condition;,so I focused my presentation on Hero House services. Their mission is "to provide rehabilitation and employment programs for adults living with mental illness".  Job-finding and psychiatric referral are aspects of their services.  
During their public luncheon the day of the Hearing, I learned Hero House has many resources, strong backing from King County, and a willingness to visit the encampments. The Executive Director says member volunteers and staff could visit the encampments to explain to those interested how to register for membership. I plan to join them. Their membership and services are free. 
Several of the Hearing speakers preferred regional human services -- available to all Eastside encampments. The Hero House is located in Bellevue and they welcome mentally ill living in all parts of King County. They have a van that can shuttle their members (and prospective members) and they provide free bus tickets. The Executive Director prefers members use the bus to instill independent living.  Everyone is invited to their bi-monthly luncheons--with or without an illness. They treat each other as family.  
After the Hearing, when the council was deliberating on whether to hold another study session, Council  Member Stilin suggested a compromise between a 120 day-stay and a 180 day-stay. In general, it appeared most of the council members preferred a longer stay to increase "stability" for the residents. To reduce burden on the neighborhood, I hope council can find a way to increase duration without increasing their frequency.  In my opinion, the Hero House and other humane services need more time than 120 days to make a difference. 
The Council didn't take a vote.  I hope to talk with a council member about the Hearing during their Town Hall at Redmond Elementary this coming Monday, 6pm; and chat with Hank Myers and John Stilin at one of their coffees.  
Bob Yoder
The Hero House website is: 

No comments: