County puts plan to tackle homelessness in motion

The Kitsap Regional Consolidated Council has completed its plan to reduce homelessness in Kitsap County 50 percent by 2015 in accordance with the state’s new Homeless Housing and Assistance Act.

Passed during the 2005 Legislative session, the bill created a State Council on Homelessness, whose mission is to align policies and practices across many state agencies and departments toward a single goal — reducing homelessness.

Local governments that chose to participate — including Kitsap County — will be supported through a $10 surcharge on document recording fees at each Kitsap County Auditor’s office. Funds are divided 60/40 between local and state government.

The state estimated that Kitsap County will receive $285,000 to $370,000 per year from this program and only 6 percent of those funds can be used for administrative costs.

The Homeless Housing and Assistance Act requires participating municipalities to complete a 10-year plan to cut their homeless population in half by the end of the year.

Individual cities had the option of creating their own 10-year plans. The Port Orchard City Council, along with several other Kitsap County cities, voted last month to turn over its share of the money — between $9,975 and $12,950 — to the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council (KRCC), which is compiling the Kitsap County Plan in concert with the Kitsap County and the city of Bremerton’s Five-Year Consolidated Plan.

The KRCC is the local council of governments for Kitsap County, the cities of Bremerton, Bainbridge Island, Port Orchard and Poulsbo, the Port of Bremerton and the Suquamish and Port Gamble/S’Klallam Tribes.

According to KRCC Project Coordinator Nicole White Clark, the completed plan has been sent to the state and posted on the KRCC’s Web site.

“This plan is a starting point,” the document concludes. “It lays the framework for changing the institution of homelessness and describing how all stakeholders can come together to address the issue.”

The plan estimates that roughly 1,100 homeless people can be located throughout Kitsap County each night, due to untreated mental illness, family breakups, the inability to pay rent or mortgage, physical disability, medical problems or costs, domestic violence, the loss of a job, bad credit, drug and alcohol abuse, being discharged from an institution or jail or a temporary living situation having ended.

The plan’s mission is to “identify communitywide collaborative approaches and actions to end homelessness and provide affordable permanent housing for individuals who have experienced episodes of chronic, episodic or transitional housing.”

The 10-year plan is built on three principles — focusing on current homeless populations, streamlining access to existing services to prevent and reduce homelessness and concentrating resources on programs that offer measurable results.

According to the plan, immediate goals to reduce Kitsap County’s homeless population include decreasing the number of homeless 30 percent in the next five years, reducing the frequency and duration of homelessness and increasing the number of homeless people who move into and maintain

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