Colville council supports plan to help homeless

(By Jamie Henneman/Chewelah Independent)

Hope Street Project shares goals…

At a recent meeting in mid-March, the Colville City Council voted to support a new comprehensive plan to end homelessness in Colville that has been developed by the Hope Street Project. The plan, drafted by the new community group, seeks to create better connections between services that already exist for homeless people in Colville, as well as forwarding new ideas to make home ownership more attainable.

The plan was presented to the Colville City Council on March 14 by Dr. Barry Bacon who spearheads the Hope Street Project that includes community members, social workers, church groups, business donors and volunteers.

According to their 2017 plan to end homelessness, the Hope Street Project plans to build three tiny homes before the end of the year and envisions securing a building in Colville that could act as a hub for what the group calls “wraparound” services.

A main building where temporary housing, warmth, water, food, laundry, lockers, counseling and education could all be provided is the group’s goal. Bringing all the services together is important, according to the Hope Street plan because the current social services are too spread out and disconnected.

“This one location is needed because so much of a homeless person’s time is wasted walking from one location to another, trying to keep warm, meeting appointments, filling out paperwork and applications,” the Hope Street plan, explained. “We intend to fully integrate a warming center or drop in center and resource center as well as a ‘clubhouse’ for the mentally ill in this multi-purpose community facility.”

While the plan does not name a specific location for the new homeless services center, the group did set a financial goal of raising $60,000 in 2017.

Another goal for the Hope Street plan to end homelessness is to build three “tiny homes,” or homes under 400 square feet built on trailers, in 2017 and connect them with a qualifying family who has gone through the project’s application process. The tiny homes will be targeted for those who may not qualify for a conventional home loan and would be purchased through a rent to own agreement at zero interest.

Other possible services of the Hope Street project include the incorporation of a wildlife rescue and sanctuary site where homeless people could volunteer; and the development of a lending library and computer lab at the multi-purpose community building.

Determining need
As the Hope Street project works to address a problem that many in the community know is present, pegging down the numbers of homeless people in Stevens County from year to year can be a challenging task.

According to Christopher Thompson who works in the housing division of Rural Resources, the last official count of homeless people in the county in January was 35. However, it is believed that the actual number is much higher.

“Due to the weather conditions of January and living in a rural area, it is very difficult to get an accurate number of homeless,” said Thompson. “We do believe there are anywhere from 100 to 150 homeless within Stevens County. Those numbers are based on interviewing current and formerly homeless individuals.”

The number of young people who are homeless in the Colville area is a figure that the public school system tracks, with the last count in 2015 showing that 273 schoolchildren were registered as homeless. The Hope Street project notes that a great number of these children are “couch surfers” who are technically under someone’s roof but are without a stable home and vulnerable to abuse.

Based on these figures the Hope Street project said homelessness is growing in Stevens County and there are “not enough funds or resources available to address the crisis.”

“All humans share the need for shelter,” the project related in their homelessness plan. “Without shelter, health outcomes are measurably worse. Living without shelter is associated with other challenges, including poverty, material insecurity, violence, abuse by other society members, addition, mental illness, adverse childhood events and despair. If we are to address this challenge effectively, we must rally around and partner together to improve the efficiency of those who already work to end it.”

More information about the Hope Street Project is currently available though the Wilder Construction website at www.wilderconstructionllc.com.