Grays Harbor County was awarded almost $1 million to help fund transitional housing efforts for young people.
The state Department of Commerce’s Office of Homeless Youth is providing $955,364 over two years to “expand emergency housing and rental assistance, crisis intervention services, outreach to connect homeless youth with resources and other assistance to youth and young adults,” according to a release from the agency announcing $11 million in grants to similar programs across the state.
In August, Grays Harbor lost its only youth shelter. Financial troubles and a switch in focus to other youth services led Catholic Community Services to close the Grays Harbor Youth Center in Aberdeen.
County Social Services Manager Cassie Lentz hopes the “emergency temporary housing for youth,” which will include a Crisis Residential Center and a HOPE Center, will be running in November.
The funding “is going to be used to operate a six-bed facility that will serve youth experiencing homelessness, of both genders, between the ages of 12 and 17,” she said. “The funding will be used primarily for the operation of that facility (including staffing and meals).”
When researching possible assistance for reducing homelessness, the county conducted a needs assessment that showed three groups of youths need the most assistance: state dependent youth (e.g. those in the foster care system); youth with high behavioral health needs (mental health or substance use needs); and “youths who are the drop-in/couch surfing youth that need a safe place to be and to get connected to services,” Lentz said.
“The real advantage of this program that the Department of Homeless Youth is administering is that it allows us to serve any and all of those groups.”
Coastal Community Action Program will operate the shelter using the Commerce funds. At this time, no county money is expected to be used for the program.
Homelessness continues to be a problem in Grays Harbor County. Last month, the city of Aberdeen cleared campsites of homeless Harborites on the north side of the Chehalis River. Camps have since been set up on the south side of the river and the Aberdeen City Council is considering whether to clear those as well.
“It’s important that we keep addressing the homelessness in our community. And youth are one of the most vulnerable segments of that,” County Commissioner Randy Ross said. “We’ll continue to seek programs that will help meet those needs.”
Lentz said CCAP has a location in mind near Aberdeen High School for the center, though it has not been finalized nor made public. When finished, the center will have six to eight full-time equivalent workers.
CCAP also received money from the Department of Commerce. It will receive $211,331 over two years for “supportive services only — outreach,” according to the release.
Among the services provided at the center will be a “credentialed case manager,” Lentz said, to develop with the youths a stability plan for life while at the center and after leaving.
“Shelter is a really important, immediate crisis response for youth in a vulnerable position, but we also need longer-term options,” she said. “For youth that are really struggling, 90 days in a shelter is not going to resolve those issues.”