The Jefferson County Commissioners, members of the Port Townsend city council, representatives from OlyCAP and county staff met to begin discussion of a new interlocal agreement to help extremely low income persons and homeless persons and fund a year-round shelter. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

The Jefferson County Commissioners, members of the Port Townsend city council, representatives from OlyCAP and county staff met to begin discussion of a new interlocal agreement to help extremely low income persons and homeless persons and fund a year-round shelter. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

County eyes increased fees for homeless, housing services

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County Board of Commissioners met with members of the Port Townsend City Council’s Ad Hoc Housing Committee on Monday and agreed that there is a great need for a year-round homeless shelter.

Just how to make that happen will be hammered out in the 90 days.

Joining Commissioners David Sullivan, Kathleen Kler and Kate Dean to discuss the interlocal agreements on homelessness and affordable housing were council members Michelle Sandoval, Amy Howard and David Faber and City Manager David Timmons.

Also at the table were Executive Director Dale Wilson and Housing Programs Director Kathy Morgan from Olympic Community Action Programs.

Chief Civil Prosecuting Attorney Philip Hunsucker was also present.

“This is a real fortunate discussion we can have due to the passing of house bill 1570 back in March,” said Sullivan.

“We have an opportunity to stabilize our basic services for the shelter and those core services, and transition services to get people moving towards having a place to be. We need to show some creativity in how we do it.”

The state legislature passed House Bill 1570, which allows cities and counties to increase document recording surcharge fees from $10 to $62, effective July 1.

In Jefferson County, the additional revenue will go into its Ending Homelessness Fund, generating approximately $230,000.

About $46,000 of the revenue will go into the county’s affordable housing fund.

An interlocal agreement between the county, the city to flow the money to OlyCAP for a homeless shelter was terminated in June by the city, and a new agreement must be executed between the entities in order to allow disbursement of funds.

Sandoval, who is chair of the city’s ad-hoc committee, said that the homelessness issue and affordable housing issue are not just a Port Townsend issue.

“I want to set up a process that’s open, transparent and inclusive of all the different providers so that we have a predictability of disbursement of the funds, so the people who are the providers can have a long term plan, the citizens can have a long-term plan, and we can grow the fund strategically.

“There’s long-term planning involved so the shelter is not limping along as just a winter shelter, that it’s a year-long shelter that provides services, not just beds, and is inclusive of families and women.”

Wilson said the conversation “has gotten pretty convoluted and the problem has been masked over the past few months.

“I’m not sure what has driven that. At the end of the day, from OlyCAP’s perspective, we want to look out for the interests of the homeless people who are accessing the shelter and those who are not, and the people who are under-housed in this community. The issues are different.”

Officials noted that Clallam County closed its night-by-night shelter in June due to funding shortfalls.

The sober shelter was closed earlier this year and the family shelter has stopped taking new clients. Kitsap has closed one shelter.

Wilson said those homeless have been coming to Port Townsend.

Morley distributed a draft of an amended interlocal agreement on funding for affordable housing and homeless housing.

Dean, as a representative of the county commissioners, together with the city’s ad hoc committee will discuss the document Aug. 8 in the city hall chambers at 3 p.m.

“It lays out dedicating ongoing funding for reliable operation of a shelter, and associated core services for the homeless,” explained Morley.

“It sets up a process for at least one initial cut at process, subject to change, for allocation of both historic and ongoing revenue outside of the shelter.

“It also creates a process for creating a new five year plan for homeless housing that’s required by the state by Dec 1, 2019. It has to be adopted by the county and submitted to the state by then.

“It’s a process that includes a homeless housing task force that includes the homeless, all the providers. It would be quite a process.

“In the current draft it creates a forum for the housing providers to collaborate above and beyond that as well.”

Morley expressed a desire for more engagement with other service providers and those who are strapped with affordable housing. He said the interlocal agreement is a limited discussion.

“We want to assure the public that there is a shared desire to broaden the table down the road in these discussions.”

________

Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or atjmcmacken@peninsuladailynews.com.

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