Everett tackling issues of homelessness, loitering

EVERETT — The first of a series of nine public workshops to address homelessness and loitering will be held Thursday.

The Everett Streets Initiative is a task force launched by Mayor Ray Stephanson to address street-level nuisances in the city, including homelessness, mental health, addiction, public safety, use of public spaces and commercial streetscapes.

The task force comprises 23 people from local nonprofits and businesses, with five more city and Snohomish County officials providing administrative support. A professional facilitator will help run the meetings, city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said.

“We hope the task force will come up with some recommendations for the community,” Pembroke said.

The focus will primarily be on the city’s commercial core zones: downtown, Broadway-Evergreen Way, and the area near 41st Street and the Everett Clinic.

The task force is jointly led by Everett Planning Commission chairman Chris Adams and Sylvia Anderson, CEO of the Everett Gospel Mission.

Arriving at a solution to homelessness and other social problems won’t be easy, and Adams admits that there are areas where he will need to learn more.

“The hard thing is that we need to go through the education process at the beginning of the task force process,” Adams said.

Task force member and community activist Megan Dunn said she’s been preparing by reading up on homelessness, such as the United Way’s 2006 report “Everyone At Home Now” report.

“I’m anxious to hear more about what measures are being taken right now and use that to understand what’s missing and what can be done,” Dunn said.

Co-chair Sylvia Anderson said she hopes the task force members will want to find solutions and not point fingers or otherwise assign blame.

“I hope that everyone comes with an open mind, with an attitude that we all have something to learn,” she said, adding that this should be true even for those task force members who actively work in social services to eliminate poverty.

Ultimately, Anderson said, the end result should be specific steps that the city and various organizations can take to address homelessness and other chronic social ills.

“If there’s not an action plan, we’ll have wasted our time,” Anderson said.

“If we come out of this with another paper on the causes of poverty we will have failed,” she added.

The eight meetings of the Streets Initiative task force will be open to the public, but right now only written comments are being accepted, Pembroke said.

Staff at the meetings will have comment forms, and comments are also being accepted online on the city’s webpage: everettwa.org/default.aspx?ID=2205.

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

Everett Streets Initiative meetings

The city of Everett is convening a series of nine meetings of a task force to address street-level social problems.*

The meetings are open to the public and written comments are being accepted at the meetings or online.

The first meeting will be held from 3-6 p.m. Thursday in the Weyerhaeuser Room at Everett Station, 3201 Smith Ave.

Future meetings will be held at the same time and place on Aug. 7, Aug. 21, Sept. 4, Sept. 18, Oct. 2, Oct. 16, Oct. 30 and Nov. 13.

For more information or to submit written comments, go to the city’s webpage: everettwa.org/default.aspx?ID=2205.

Correction, July 23, 2014: There are nine public meetings planned. Information from the city did not include one of the meetings in an earlier version of this story.

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