Commentary: Agencies’ efforts working to secure homes for all

By Fred Safstrom

Everett has been my home for my entire life. I met my wife here and raised my family here. I’ve worked here, served here, and lived here for many decades. Recently, I’ve seen our city change, and I’m sure you have too.

According to the 2017 Point in Time Count, homelessness has increased 50 percent in our community since 2013. The State of Washington recently released a study that points to why this is happening, and the reason may surprise you.

Increased homelessness isn’t caused by unemployment. Employment is increasing and the joblessness rate is the lowest it has been in years.

Increased homelessness isn’t due to low levels of educational attainment. Graduation rates at both high school and college are increasing, with reading and math skills improving.

Increased homelessness isn’t due to changes in family composition. The percent of children in married couple households is increasing, while teenage pregnancy, divorce and domestic violence rates are all decreasing.

Ironically, increased homelessness is due to our booming economy. Rents are increasing dramatically while incomes have declined or remain stagnant. As housing prices skyrocket, more families simply cannot keep up and become homeless. The families who do lose housing are our most vulnerable because of issues like multi-generational poverty, trauma, low levels of educational achievement and substance abuse.

The city of Everett is leading this charge with Catholic Housing Services/Catholic Community Services to build a permanent supportive apartment facility with on-site services and case management for 65 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, some of whom will have struggles with substance abuse and mental illness.

Nearby, Cocoon House is working to create the Colby Avenue Youth Center that will expand programs to meet the needs of youth experiencing homelessness in Snohomish County.

And on Broadway, HopeWorks Social Enterprises, an affiliate of Housing Hope, is planning HopeWorks Station Phase II. This five-story building will feature three stories of residential units over two floors dedicated to workforce training, specifically in culinary and food service careers. The affordable residential units will serve veterans, families and low-income youth. Permitting for this project has just begun, with construction anticipated to begin early next year.

Thank you to the city of Everett for its leadership in tackling these issues. To Cocoon House, Catholic Community Services and others for believing that complex social issues take innovative, collaborative projects. And to you, for your support.

When we work together to tackle poverty and homelessness in Everett and Snohomish County, we all win.

Fred Safstrom is the chief executive officer of Housing Hope, which provides affordable apartments and home-ownership programs throughout Snohomish County.

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