Everett Streets Initiative participants report progress

EVERETT — Four months after the Everett Community Streets Initiative issued a final report, more social workers are riding with police officers and nonprofit agencies are better coordinating efforts to help homeless people.

Those are two initiatives launched after the task force drew up a list of 63 recommendations to deal with chronic homelessness and related problems.

At Everett Station on Monday, members of the task force met again to hear about progress.

Some of the recommendations are simpler than others, said deputy city attorney David Hall, who is leading their implementation.

“There will be recommendations that no one will be able to move forward now,” Hall said, because there isn’t enough money, or because a government agency, nonprofit group or other party hasn’t been identified to do it.

The task force was convened by Mayor Ray Stephanson last summer to address homelessness, addiction, mental illness and petty crimes, especially in the city’s downtown area.

The group representing government, businesses, nonprofits and churches produced the list covering areas such as policing, social services, housing, advocacy, public outreach and interagency coordination.

Hil Kaman, a deputy city attorney, noted that the Community Justice Alternatives Program, also known as the mental health court at Everett Municipal Court, is handling double the number of cases it did two months ago simply by making a part-time liaison to the court a full-time employee and increasing the frequency of meetings.

A drug court is also being explored, Kaman said, and the city has begun to reduce the number of people on a list of “chronic utilizers,” a subset of people who account for a disproportionate number of police contacts, emergency room visits, jail bookings and court appearances for minor crimes.

Police Chief Dan Templeman said officers are more visible in several areas around town, with more bicycle and foot patrols.

“We’re asking officers to get out of their cars,” he said.

Officers also are working alongside social workers so street people in need can be steered to services rather than just be arrested.

Social workers from Catholic Community Services of Western Washington helped the Police Department create cards to hand to willing recipients that enable them to get priority attention at emergency shelters, detox centers or other providers.

“This has been a philosophical change in our department,” Templeman said. “I think it’s long overdue and definitely something the officers of the Everett Police Department are excited about.”

Hall also called attention to three potential ordinances to be considered at the Everett City Council meeting Wednesday.

They would prohibit panhandling on street corners and in medians and would ban sitting or camping on sidewalks (or providing food or other services to people there without a permit). Also, an alcohol impact area would cover much of downtown; in south Everett between Paine Field, Cascade High School and Everett Mall, running the length of Evergreen Way; and along Broadway north of 41st Street.

In addition to working more with law enforcement, social service nonprofits are now better coordinating their own efforts.

The same group of nonprofits that worked on the annual Project Homeless Connect initiative has been regularly convening to arrange for outreach to other encampments, said Sylvia Anderson, the chief executive of the Everett Gospel Mission.

“The best part is we all got out of our silos,” Anderson said.

Ken Stark, the human services director for Snohomish County until he retired Tuesday, said his department has been working with the Sheriff’s Office to explore adding social workers to some county patrols.

He added that the county was requesting money in the state budget to convert the vacant Carnegie Building on the corner of Wall Street and Oakes Avenue into temporary housing for homeless offenders released from jail. The county is also seeking money to provide more “truly affordable” long-term housing somewhere outside the city center for the homeless, he said.

“Which means, in a number of places, free,” Stark said. “It’s going to require everybody to change their perspectives a little bit.”

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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