In a presentation to the Tumwater City Council yesterday, Community Action Council of Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties (CAC) presented several housing options for people who are either struggling with homelessness or those who are unable to pay their rent.
During the city council work session, Community Action Council Chief Executive Officer Kirsten York presented several affordable housing programs for which residents can apply.
The Community Action Council generally provides housing options for veterans or single individuals who are homeless or at imminent risk. “Our funding requirement is we serve the vulnerable first,” York shared.
York explained that before individuals are taken in, they must go through an assessment process called Coordinated Entry. In the process, applicants must fill in a survey that assesses their vulnerability. Depending on their scores, the agency places qualified applicants on a master list for housing options.
Some of the factors that the Community Action Council takes into consideration include a person’s mental and physical state, as well as their interaction with doctors and law enforcement officers. “We do our best to capture who is the most highly vulnerable based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, [and] their experiences with law enforcement.”
However, York shared that they have a specific demographic to qualify for a shelter option. She explained that first, applicants must fit into the definition of being homeless. “There’s a pretty specific guideline to determine who are homeless in our area.” These include those who are living in a place that is not meant for human habitation (no access to water or heating), those who are living in an emergency shelter, and those who are living in a transitional shelter with an imminent exit date.
Qualified individuals are then placed in the Rapid Rehousing program where they are given rent and basic utilities such as water, sewer, and garbage, and even application and deposit fees.
Foundational Community Supports Program
Aside from Rapid Rehousing, Director of Housing and Health Katrina Kahler-Wilson also introduced CAC’s Foundational Community Supports Program which helps eligible clients with complex health needs to maintain housing and employment stability.
Kahler-Wilson shared that to qualify for the program, the applicant must be Medicaid-eligible or at least meet one health need and one risk factor which will have to be determined by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.
Those eligible can receive rent, basic utilities, and essential needs items such as cleaning or hygiene supplies which are usually not covered by SNAP benefits. Currently, there are 300 individuals in Thurston County who have qualified for the program.
Federal Rent Assistance Fund
In addition, the Community Action Council also provides assistance for residents who are struggling to pay their rent. Kahler-Wilson shared that the federal government had provided funding to help individuals to cover their rent, utility, and other housing costs.
Those eligible for the program are low-income households (those earning less than 80 percent of the area median income), households directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19, and households at risk of being homeless or those who are behind their rent and utilities.
Applicants can call the Community Action Council on 360-438-1100 for an appointment. Once they can provide the necessary documents, their application goes to CAC’s Fiscal Department for verification. The process may take 4-6 weeks. Once the application is verified, the Housing Case Manager reaches out to the landlord or utility provider with a Payment Agreement form.
Overall, there have been 2,279 applications approved for the Rent Assistance Fund.
During the discussion, Tumwater Councilmember Leatta Dahlhoff shared that she had repeatedly tried to reach out to the Community Action Council for homeless assistance but failed to receive a response. York admitted that despite their best efforts, there are still individuals who “fall into the cracks,” because of funding or staffing issues.
In a statement, Councilmember Angela Jefferson shared that the city of Tumwater is willing to help in terms of funding and services. “This is near and dear to our hearts… we really care about … the houseless and homeless situation that is going on, not only in Tumwater but in the entire community.”
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