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By Jana Hill
Mill Creek Beacon Editor 

Cold weather shelters open in Snohomish County

Mill Creek homeless landscape impacted by surrounding cities


Last updated 12/27/2020 at 8:14am

As the temperatures drop, the degrees of homelessness become more evident and more dangerous for the unsheltered.

In 2019, just under 600 people in the county were "unsheltered," meaning they lived in an abandoned building (22), in a vehicle (280) or on the street (297). That number is up from year's past. The Point in Time count for the county is coming up in January, and it is not clear how it will proceed, with COVID-19 restrictions. The Beacon has requested information on the PIT status during COVID-19.

PIT interviewers visit people who are homeless by going where they stay, and engage in an interview to help define homelessness in the county. Help is sometimes offered in that counting process. Once connected with resources, homeless, off-the-grid people with no permanent residence are sometimes asked to show up for appointments.

"We occasionally transport homeless contacts to shelters in cold weather circumstances, otherwise we generally refer them to services via pamphlets we have access to," said Cprl. Ian Durkee, who serves as Mill Creek Police department's public information officer. "Sometimes people don't want to go to shelters so we'll keep blankets in our cars at times to give to them. Officers are generally aware of the basic local services we may be able solicit for help. We don't have a structured program within our police department for handling homeless issues, though that could certainly be a good thing to develop."

The City has an ordinance about no camping in parks. Most unsheltered people are between the ages of 31 and 50, according to the PIT count in 2019, and 44% are female. When asked their last permanent residence by PIT count interviewers, most answered Everett. North Snohomish County was also listed. Mill Creek was not mentioned on the document.

Simply lying down to sleep in a park is not a violation of the ordinance, the website says.

Multiple locations in Snohomish County provide overnight shelters during dangerously cold weather, which is anticipated to last through March. Lynnwood has a website to its shelter, at Monroe has the Homeless Policy Advisory Committee, and Snohomish County has resources as well.

Programs near the City include Housing Hope, Cocoon House and if one is arrested, the Snohomish County Diversion Center. The Diversion Center is fairly comprehensive, assessing behavioral and substance abuse needs to shepherd people into better circumstances.

Reasons for homelessness vary including job loss, divorce, substance abuse, mental health issues and other circumstances. The homeless people in Snohomish County are tallied annually in the Point in Time Count.

Debates on policy around homelessness include a tug-o-war between getting them sheltered and getting them on-track for behavioral, health and employability issues. Funding to assist homeless populations is sometimes complicated by demographic limits: homeless men can fall into a gap where there is little help.

The cold weather shelters are for overnight stays, usually for people who are officially homeless. Some shelters take visitors who live in a home that cannot be heated, due to financial constraints, so that families can stay warm overnight.

In Mill Creek, the police are faced with the problem when it comes up.

For now, it's cold. Temperatures that trigger shelter-openings are colder than 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Colder seasons can vary in length and intensity. Shelters also may vary in hours, days or location, said a news release by the Snohomish County Health District.

Expect updates on the link above for the openings and closures of area shelters, on the county site.

Anyone who would like to volunteer at any of the cold weather shelters, please contact the individual site for volunteer details.

COVID-19 precautions will be taken at all shelters, and may cause changes in transportation resources.

Youth between the ages of 12 and 17 who need shelter may call 425-877-5171.

Those in need of open cold-weather shelters see listings here More help can be found by calling 211.


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