Viola Ware, program director of coordinated intake for Serenity House, and Sgt. Jason Viada of the Port Angeles Police Department let people on the Olympic Discovery Trail know about resources Serenity House provides. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Viola Ware, program director of coordinated intake for Serenity House, and Sgt. Jason Viada of the Port Angeles Police Department let people on the Olympic Discovery Trail know about resources Serenity House provides. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Serenity House of Clallam County, police team up to connect homeless with services

Serenity House’s Viola Ware walks with Port Angeles Police Sgt. Jason Viada to places where people are known to camp to ensure they know the services available.

PORT ANGELES — As winter approaches and the weather worsens, it’s going to be even more vital to connect the county’s homeless population with Serenity House of Clallam County’s shelter and services, said Viola Ware, program director of coordinated intake for Serenity House.

Through a new partnership with the Port Angeles Police Department, the hope is to do just that.

“We don’t want anybody dying because they froze to death,” she said. “People without shelter die.”

Ware walks with Sgt. Jason Viada about twice a week to places where people are known to camp to ensure they are aware of the services available to them.

As Ware and Viada walked ahead of what was predicted to be a historic storm earlier this month, the two let people know that Serenity House’s shelter at 2321 W. 18th St. was open and had plenty of room for anyone who wanted out of the weather.

Serenity House also has a similar relationship with the Sequim Police Department. Ware said because of the relationship, she has been contacted to offer services to campers being evicted, she said.

Ware, an officer and Sequim Police Department chaplain Heike Ward have plans to reach out to people in Sequim who are sheltering outside.

The Single Adult Shelter provides emergency shelter, meals, showers, laundry and other basic needs for homeless single adult men and women.

So that transportation isn’t an issue, Serenity House provides a 9 p.m. nightly van ride from the Port Angeles Gateway transit center at 123 E. Front St. to the shelter.

The partnership has been helpful in reaching out to the homeless population and checking up on clients.

“Pairing up with the police department is especially nice because I get to learn from [Viada’s] experiences with a lot of our clients,” Ware said.

Law enforcement in Jefferson County also works with organizations to connect the homeless population with services, said Port Townsend Police Chief Michael Evans.

He said the department works with Olympic Community Action Programs and the Community Outreach Association Shelter Team to help make those connections.

The partnership in Port Angeles was born after the public decried an increase of panhandling in the city, Ware said.

“[Homelessness] is a problem we’re trying to help find a solution to, and the solution to this problem isn’t going to come in the form of filling the jail up with people who have committed minor offenses,” Viada said.

While on the walks and in working with the homeless population, he has found that few are willing to trust the system to help them.

They often tell Viada it’s not that bad living outside in the Pacific Northwest, he said.

“What I see is the people we’re talking to and are trying to help are not very good at following through with any kind of process,” he said. “They are good at what happens right now — and Viola offers to help guide them through that process.”

Ware sees the walks as a chance to reach out and hopefully gain trust. Her first goal is to make sure people are sheltered, then it’s to connect them with other services they might need.

“The primary focus for us is housing — let’s get people who are not safe into shelter,” she said. “Once they are in shelter, once they are in our office, then we can talk to them.”

From there, they can get connected with mental health assistance, domestic violence advocacy, food, life skills training and other services, she said.

Ware said it’s a good feeling when someone she has been trying to help for some time makes it into the shelter.

“The contacts we make, sometimes it can take two years just to get someone in, housed and stable,” she said. “It’s a process, and this is just a step of that process.”

Ware bills Serenity House’s Housing Resource Centers as a “one-stop shop” for anyone’s housing needs. Serenity House has centers in Port Angeles, Sequim and Forks.

Ware has seen a steady increase in the number of people who go to the Housing Resource Centers. While there’s a number of people who sign in multiple times, Ware said more than 300 people signed in during September.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

Viola Ware, program director of coordinated intake for Serenity House, lets people on the Olympic Discovery Trail know about resources Serenity House provides, including its shelter. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Viola Ware, program director of coordinated intake for Serenity House, lets people on the Olympic Discovery Trail know about resources Serenity House provides, including its shelter. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Viola Ware, program director of coordinated intake for Serenity House, and Sgt. Jason Viada of the Port Angeles Police Department walk out of a homeless camp in Port Angeles while looking for people who would benefit from Serenity House’s services. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Viola Ware, program director of coordinated intake for Serenity House, and Sgt. Jason Viada of the Port Angeles Police Department walk out of a homeless camp in Port Angeles while looking for people who would benefit from Serenity House’s services. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Sgt. Jason Viada of the Port Angeles Police Department and Viola Ware, program director of coordinated intake for Serenity House, walk the Port Angeles waterfront looking for people who may need to use Serenity House’s shelter. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Sgt. Jason Viada of the Port Angeles Police Department and Viola Ware, program director of coordinated intake for Serenity House, walk the Port Angeles waterfront looking for people who may need to use Serenity House’s shelter. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

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