Faith group’s videos highlight Everett homelessness efforts

Six videos show the work that Everett Faith in Action members do in partnership with the city to alleviate homelessness.

EVERETT — A group that partners with the city of Everett to help homeless people is taking its message to the masses.

Everett Faith in Action, a collection of faith-based organizations, last week published six videos about some of the efforts to address homelessness in the city.

A screening and conversation about the issue is set for 5:30 p.m. Sunday at First Baptist Church, 1616 Pacific Ave., Everett.

“Homelessness harms our entire community, not just the individual,” said Carol Jensen, an Everett Faith in Action member and retired Lutheran pastor. “… The videos tell a story of why people of faith care about this, why we need to have compassion, that these people are our neighbors.”

The group got $12,000 in a contract with the city to produce the video series that explains the current state of homelessness in Everett.

Ben Breeden, Everett’s homeless response coordinator, was a pastor and on the group’s steering committee before being hired for the new city job in January. He said the videos are useful to “improve the discussion” about homelessness.

“It’s really easy to look at the issue of homelessness as a monolithic, insurmountable problem,” Breeden said. “I think it’s really important to see there are great things happening.”

The series shows the problem, some of the work to address it and invites people, especially those in faith communities, to join as donors and volunteers. They can consider hosting a parking lot car shelter or making meals, Jensen said.

“A lot of us indeed are seconds and minutes and a couple paychecks away from not having,” Everett United Church of Christ pastor Jermell Witherspoon says in one video. “We are all a part of the beauty of God and we all deserve basic human rights. So if we have the ability to give and don’t, I don’t say the word ‘sin’ too often, I think that is sinful and is wicked.”

Snohomish County had a 10-year high in the homeless population, which totaled 1,184 people, during its point-in-time count. Everett was the most common location for a last permanent residence and nearly half of respondents said they slept there, according to county data.

Everett Community Outreach and Enforcement Team (COET), the city’s unit that pairs a police officer with a social worker, contacted 918 people last year.

“We continue to see more and more homeless people on our streets,” Everett Community Development director Julie Willie said.

That’s partly because of the actions of other cities and counties as well as housing costs, she said.

The videos discuss the city’s “balanced approach” that weighs the needs of homeless people, businesses and residents.

Several groups work with the city to serve homeless people with food, health, hygiene and social service programs.

The city tasks its COET program with referring people it contacts to social services and enforcing laws, including the “no sit, no lie” policy enacted in March 2021.

“I see a lot of hopelessness, a lot of pain,” COET community support coordinator Kelly Roark says in one video.

Everett has spent hundreds of thousands on temporary shelters. It purchased 40 units from Pallet, an Everett company that makes temporary shelters, for a site that the Everett Gospel Mission manages.

The city could expand with a second site at Glenwood Avenue and Sievers Duecy Boulevard that Volunteers of America of Western Washington would operate for women and children.

“It is a daunting problem, and I think we’re honest about that,” Jensen said. “But we’re not alone in this.” 

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

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