JASON RANTZ

State lawmaker touts ‘common sense’ pilot program to fight homeless crisis in Grays Harbor

May 18, 2021, 9:27 AM
Grays Harbor homeless...
The remains of a homeless encampment in Grays Harbor County in 2019. (KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

Grays Harbor County will soon be hosting a new pilot program proposed by Republican state Rep. Jim Walsh, putting $900,000 toward transitional housing for the region’s homeless population.

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The program will use state funds from the 2021-23 capital budget to build an estimated 40 units of transitional housing in Grays Harbor County. The goal, Walsh says, is to take a “common sense approach” to homelessness.

“We want to get people off the streets, and we want to get them out of tents,” he told KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show. “I don’t like the sort of homeless industrial complex approach to creating eyesore problems in our cities and our towns — that’s a strategy to to create the impression of a problem that we spend billions trying to solve.”

Rather than pouring millions of dollars into communities — oftentimes with strings attached by state lawmakers — Walsh hopes to implement a more targeted strategy, while allowing local leaders to take the lead.

“Too much of our state’s homeless housing policy and budgeting are one size fits all,” he noted. “I think that’s wrong; I think that local elected [officials] need to be in charge.”

For the Grays Harbor pilot program, the plan is to get the region’s unhoused population out of tents, shelters, and camps, and into locally-run transitional housing. From there, people can then have access to mental health services that will enable them to find a more permanent living situation down the line.

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Ultimately, the goal is to “get them off the street, triage what their issues are, and get them into programs that set them back on a healthy path,” Walsh described.

The pilot program will be managed by Grays Harbor County commissioners, who praised Walsh’s efforts for opening the door to local control.

“Urban-centric, state-defined programs don’t meet the needs of many rural counties,” Grays Harbor County Commissioner Jill Warne said in a written release. “This pilot project stops that insanity by offering local governments the ability to define the best methods to sheltering and helping the homeless living in their communities.”

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State lawmaker touts ‘common sense’ pilot program to fight homeless crisis in Grays Harbor