Clallam commissioners consider road ahead on Consolidated Homeless Grant

Officials mull administering state funds

PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County commissioners Monday discussed the next steps forward as the county considers taking on the state Department of Commerce’s Consolidated Homeless Grant, which is currently administered by Serenity House of Clallam County.

The commissioners passed on “opting in” for the $1.3 million grant when Commerce asked in January due to a short timeline, but expressed interest in a transition in the next two years.

During a “Commissioner Conversation” meeting Monday morning, Serenity House Director Doc Robinson told commissioners the current system is flawed and that providers of services are fighting over limited funding instead of focusing on fighting homelessness.

“The system is broken and the reason I’m in favor of the county taking charge is to end this nonsense,” Robinson said.

Commissioners reviewed a timeline as the county looks to take on the grant, which comes with requirements related to reporting and providing of services.

Early this year county officials plan to meet with other jurisdictions that are the lead administrative agency for the Consolidated Homeless Grant so they can see what would work best in Clallam County, they said.

In 2020, a report would be provided to the board for discussion at a work session and in June 2020 there could be a preliminary decision whether to opt in or not.

If the county decides to opt in, it would then develop a transition plan that would include staffing requirements.

Commissioner Mark Ozias said he felt that if much of the work is done early there is an opportunity to make that preliminary decision prior to June.

Among the requirements of the grant is to provide one low-barrier shelter for homeless adults, provide a low-barrier shelter for homeless households with children, maintain the coordinated entry system, maintain the Homeless Management Information System and a number of recording requirements.

Exactly how the county would use the funds is yet to be seen.

Commissioner Randy Johnson said “every county does everything a little differently.”

Robinson told commissioners there are generally a few different models the county could adopt if it decides to administer the grant.

He said the county can provide coordinated entry on its own while contracting services with other agencies; contract with one agency to fulfill the obligations of the grant; or provide a process to contract with multiple agencies to fulfill the obligations.

“The decision comes down to are you hiring one agency to do this, are you going to centrally do it or are you going to have a distributed system that comes back to the county department?” Robinson said. “That’s really it.”

Serenity House Director of Operations Viola Ware told commissioners there is give and take with various methods.

She said that when counties have operated coordinated entry “it is almost like shipping and receiving.”

She said when the agency that is providing coordinated entry is also providing other services, it allows for continuity.

“There’s the advantages you have of that continuum of process,” she said. “You have one case manager that follows a person all the way through from shelter to coordinated entry to housing.”

She said that approach is unique and creates massive caseloads for caseworkers.

Serenity House currently has 45 families under its care in housing with rent assistance through Rapid ReHousing.

The Housing Resource Centers screen 45 people a week.

The night-by-night shelter is seeing about 40 people each night, though as the weather improves that is expected drop closer to 25 people.

Three families are using family shelter services. Serenity House also manages 102 permanent supportive housing or permanent housing units.

Amy Miller, who does street outreach, heads the Rediscovery program and serves on the Homelessness Task Force, said she would support a centralized funding source.

“There’s a lot of agencies that don’t play well with others,” she said. “Having the county have those funds may relax some of the competitiveness so we can actually get work done together.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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