Olympia Mayoral Candidate Nathaniel Jones is calling for a set of actions to boldly reduce homelessness. He says that current response efforts are weak and inadequate, and are not making progress against homelessness. These views align with those of Congressman Denny Heck, who recently commented on homelessness by saying, “Regardless of your political views, we must face the facts, what we are doing is not working.'' New direction is needed if we expect to respond effectively.
Jones has produced a set of action plans to reduce the growing number of homeless people and families in our community. He has drawn upon the successful experience of towns around the country to propose a series of new strategies- because what we’ve been doing is simply not working. These strategies, along with a new regional mitigation site, set a new direction for ending homelessness as we know it.
Last week Jones committed to Olympia joining the ‘Built for Zero’ movement, which is transforming communities around the country and actually ending chronic homelessness. “The current lack of coordination and performance measures in local services needs to be addressed. Built for Zero,” says Jones, “Is exactly what we need. I strongly advocate for this model because it will bring results.”
After learning of the State’s first Safe Station for opioid treatment, Jones found wide support for a low-cost approach to expand access to treatment. Substance abuse is just one of the many causes of homelessness. “With greater access to outpatient treatment, we can achieve real results,” Jones said.
Generally, we pay for a product or service when it is delivered. But our current homeless response services do not operate this way. Paying for Success just makes sense- This week, Jones announced support for a 2020 pilot project to invest in organizations that can achieve specific outcomes - moving people from homelessness into housing. Instead of paying for a set of services, we pay for results.
Some suggest that outreach to homeless people is best achieved with a police presence. This is just not the case. Our neighbors without homes often live in fear of being discovered, evicted, or worse. Authority-based outreach doesn’t work to foster a positive connection and move people back into the community. Reaching people where they are, and eliminating fear, will work. In the past, Olympia’s outreach workers paved the way for this. “Now we must support ‘Alternative Outreach’ as our most effective tool, says Jones.
Finally, Nathaniel Jones recognizes a simple fact- Winter is coming. We have less shelter beds in place now than one year ago. Proposed renovations and expansions have not happened, resulting in significant reductions. We have less beds available, and many more people in need. We must act now to partner and open a daytime warming center before winter arrives. Jones says, “These cost-effective actions will turn the tide on homelessness. Innovation and building on the success of others will deliver an effective response. Our current direction is more-of-the-same. These strategies bring accountability and clear focus to the single largest problem facing our community.”