Everett considers coordinator, contract for homeless outreach

The city could use $870,000 of $20.7 million federal ARPA money to try a 30-month case management program.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Everett in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118

EVERETT — Last year Everett’s eight-person social worker and police officer unit contacted 918 people who were homeless.

The unit, called Community Outreach and Enforcement Team (COET), had more than 4,300 interactions in that span. It’s a vast workload that can have gaps as they try to navigate people through health care, housing and sometimes criminal justice.

“The need for follow-up outpaced the current staffing capacity,” Everett Community Development Director Julie Willie said during the Feb. 16 city council meeting.

Everett is proposing a two-year pilot program to help manage that work more effectively. The city would use $870,000 of its $20.7 million federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The plan is to hire a case management coordinator and contract an outside group for social workers for 30 months. Doing so would multiply the city’s social worker ranks, which now consist of two and a supervisor as part of COET.

Case mangers would assist people who don’t have shelter by coordinating their care and advocating for best options.

The 30-month trial will let city leaders evaluate if they want to make the social worker expansion part of Everett’s regular budget.

Last year, the COET unit had four officers, one sergeant, two social workers and a supervisor. They visit encampments and speak with people on the streets, offering them connections to shelter, addiction treatment, health care and other resources.

COET also educates people they interact with about laws, such as the city’s “no sit, no lie” ordinance around the Everett Gospel Mission and enforcement of crimes and warrants.

With Snohomish County’s coordinated entry system “overwhelmed” and more than 900 people waiting for a resource navigator’s assistance, there isn’t enough human services support. That’s on top of a lack of housing or beds for inpatient treatment programs.

“We know we don’t have enough affordable housing in our county. We know we don’t have enough supportive housing for individuals with disabilities,” Willie said.

The city council would have to approve a budget amendment for the coordinator position and a contract for case management at an upcoming meeting.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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