By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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The three county commissioners on Tuesday approved an updated version of the county's 10-year plan to end homelessness.
The first version was adopted in December 2005. The goal remains to end homelessness by 2015.
"It's a very concrete, measurable and high bar," Commissioner Mike Chapman said.
Kathy Wahto, executive director of Serenity House of Clallam County, said the new plan reflects progress that has already been made, addresses a new funding environment, contains less technical language and meets certain grant deadlines.
Clallam County Prevention Specialist Jill Dole said that more than 75 percent of the goals in the original plan have already been accomplished.
The document guides the Clallam County Homelessness Task Force, which makes recommendations to county commissioners on the best practices for ending homelessness in Clallam County by 2015, Dole explained.
"Overall, the new draft is very similar to the original document," Dole said.
"The first document was more geared toward specific populations of homeless people, and this draft has goals and objectives that apply to all populations."
Commissioner Steve Tharinger said the plan's focus on proactive prevention has helped the county secure funding to fight homelessness.
The new plan uses a January 2006 point-in-time count as a baseline to measure the county's progress. The 2006 survey found 668 homeless or at-risk households and 1,055 homeless or at-risk people.
Since 2006, overall homelessness has dropped by 43 percent in Clallam County, according to the new plan.
Five trends are expected in the coming years.
• Homelessness will be impacted by cuts to temporary assistance and other Department of Social and Health Services programs.
• An emphasis on employment and job training will help the homeless achieve self-reliance.
• State and federal funding for homelessness programs is decreasing.
• Plans are in the works to end veterans' homelessness at the state and federal level.
• Changes in state program for general assistance will impact 125 to 200 unemployable single adults in Clallam County before the end of the year.
The plan has five goals and strategies.
• Prevent people from becoming homeless through prevention, diversion and re-entry.
• Provide more permanent housing and supportive housing.
• Remove barriers and link people to the appropriate services.
• Increase leadership and civic engagement.
• Expand data collection to reveal the nature and scope of homelessness in Clallam County.
Thirty-nine percent of homeless respondents listed the inability to pay the rent or mortgage as a cause for their homelessness.
The second-leading cause was alcohol or drug abuse (31 percent), followed by job loss (26 percent), end of a temporary living situation (26 percent), poor credit rating (25 percent), mental illness (24 percent), family breakup (24 percent) and being the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault (23 percent).
Households could report more than one cause.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.