Top, from left: Chris Collier, Megan Dunn, Mindy Woods. Bottom, from left: Beth Doglio and Jacque Julien. They participated in a Snohomish County housing informational panel hosted by Dunn on Tuesday.

Top, from left: Chris Collier, Megan Dunn, Mindy Woods. Bottom, from left: Beth Doglio and Jacque Julien. They participated in a Snohomish County housing informational panel hosted by Dunn on Tuesday.

Hundreds seek housing in Snohomish County — but are on hold

Housing challenges were the focus of a virtual panel hosted by Snohomish County Councilmember Megan Dunn.

EVERETT — Over 900 people are homeless in Snohomish County and waiting for a resource navigator to help them.

The county’s Coordinated Entry system is overwhelmed, said Mindy Woods, a board member for the Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance. Fewer than 10% of people who enter the system are getting help. There simply isn’t anywhere to house them.

This week, Woods and other advocates gave updates on affordable housing in Snohomish County at a panel hosted by county Councilmember Megan Dunn. There are a range of challenges, panelists said: There’s limited shelter availability, the 211 system is overwhelmed, and people most affected by county housing decisions often don’t get a chance to provide input.

“When it comes to creating solutions, Black and brown bodies, and those closest to the problem, are excluded from engaging and charting the course,” said Jacque Julien, executive director for Communities of Color Coalition. “… That continues to be an issue across not only our county, but across our state.”

Julien said the county needs better data about its residents in crisis. People seeking help also need more ways to access it, rather than calling 211, Julien said.

“We don’t currently have a system that is set up in place to support the needs of our community,” Julien said. “Therefore, we shovel and funnel — it’s like a one-stop shop — and in reality, that’s never going to get us to where we need to be.”

Even finding room at a shelter is incredibly challenging, Woods said. Only one exists in south Snohomish County. It has a two- to four-month wait list and only accepts women and children.

The city of Edmonds has its own household assistance program, but most cities don’t. That puts more pressure on the county’s 211 system to help people with rental assistance.

“They have thousands of people in the queue waiting to get a call back,” Woods said, adding it can take up to two hours to reach someone, depending on the day and time. “… Once you’re able to get through and ask for rental assistance, the average wait time to get a call back is eight to 10 weeks — just to get the call back to start your process.”

This week’s panelists included Julien; Woods, a Human Services program manager for the city of Edmonds; Beth Doglio, a former state representative; and Chris Collier, Alliance for Housing Affordability program manager for the Housing Authority of Snohomish County.

“Things are fundamentally different today than they were 10 years ago,” Collier said. “We’re in a different era of Snohomish County housing.”

The panelists encouraged people to contact representatives at the city, county and state levels about housing issues they’re facing. A recording of the informational panel can be found on Dunn’s Facebook page.

“Call, email, write,” Collier said. “It’s that easy.”

Katie Hayes: katie.hayes@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @misskatiehayes.

Katie Hayes is a Report for America corps member and writes about issues that affect the working class for The Daily Herald.

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