TACOMA, Wash. — Pierce County leaders say they can’t wait any longer to address homelessness.
“I think we’re beyond the waiting point now because the crisis is so great,” says Derek Young, chairman of the Pierce County Council.
The council is moving forward on a plan to get a temporary housing center up and running in Tacoma. But instead of starting from scratch, Pierce County and Tacoma will spend $5 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to buy the Comfort Inn on South Hosmer Street.
It’s a plan that Young says has proven effective in King County.
“What this strategy seems to basically do is it makes people more likely to find permanent housing, to get treatment that they need, and improve overall outcomes,” Young said.
Not everyone is convinced.
Joel Entanacion is concerned about how this could impact his barbershop, Joel’s VIP Barber Salon, which would be right across the street.
“It’s going to be tough,” Entanacion said. “We’ve been dealing with homeless people for a while here, since 2006-2007, then I came back here in 2013, and it’s just be getting worse. Business goes down. We’d start losing a lot of clientele because of the homeless that’re around."
Young understands business’ concerns, but says those concerns are the reason why these shelters are needed.
“A person that’s getting their needs met and is being housed, is less of a threat to their business than someone who continues to be unhoused and isn’t getting their needs met. So I would ask them: do we want things to get better?”
The county has set a goal of eradicating street homelessness by November 1. In order to meet that goal, Young says they need to get started.
“Being unsheltered is a trauma in and of itself. It’s unsafe, it’s unhealthy and the longer we let people go into that, the worse the conditions get and the harder it is for them to recover. So it’s important that we take action as quickly as possible,” Young said.