Pierce County, the City of Fife, and homeless service providers were recently awarded $35 million from the state Right of Way Safety Initiative to help move residents living on state highway rights of way into safer housing opportunities, with an emphasis on permanent housing solutions. As a result, 300 additional shelter beds will operate for at least two and a half years.
Following more than a year of collaboration and planning among municipalities, service providers, and stakeholders to develop the Comprehensive Plan to End Homelessness (CPEH), Pierce County was in an advantageous position to quickly submit a proposal for the state Right of Way Safety Initiative. The initiative is a partnership between three state agencies, the Washington State Department of Commerce, Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington State Patrol, as well as local jurisdictions and outreach providers. Together the partners focus on homeless encampments on state roadway rights of way and moving people living there to safer and more permanent housing.
Reflecting recommendations from the CPEH, the following projects have received funding:
- Microhome Village, Pierce County
- Fife Jobs and Housing Program, City of Fife
- Fife Hotel Vouchers, City of Fife
- Encampment Outreach, City of Fife
- Parkland Tiny House Village, Low Income Housing Institute
- Candlewood Shelter, Low income Housing Institute
- Housing and Recovery through Peer Services, Comprehensive Life Resources
- Hotel-based Shelter, Helping Hand House
- RV Safe Parking, Homeward Bound
- Nativity House, Catholic Community Services
“The Pierce County Human Services team is happy to have been part of this effort to identify projects across our county that will temporarily and permanently house people,” said Heather Moss, Human Services director. “In our work on the Comprehensive Plan to End Homelessness, we’ve come to recognize that no single jurisdiction or entity can effectively respond to homelessness – it’s going to take sustained efforts of all of us moving towards similar goals. This collection of projects is a testament to what we can do in partnership together.”
Individuals living in the state roadway right of way will be offered a bed from a variety of shelter models. With an anticipated shelter stay of around 6 months, a total of 520 households will be served in the shelter system each year. By combining shelter stays with housing interventions such as rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing, a total of 173 permanent housing exits are expected each year.
“We are grateful that Washington state has recognized the success of our jobs and housing efforts over the past year and will be providing funding to extend and expand those efforts,” said Fife Mayor Kim Roscoe. “We look forward to providing utilities to our tiny house village, extending the duration of our jobs program, and expanding the program to serve more people living on WSDOT right of way.”
One goal of the funding is to quickly establish shelter and permanent housing options. The proposal includes funding to expand successful programs operated by service providers.
"We appreciate that Pierce County took a deliberate approach to invest this money for our unhoused community. The Pierce County plan prioritizes housing inventory while also recognizing the importance of the wider services needed to maintain longer-term housing stability," said Comprehensive Life Resources CEO Kim Zacher.
Funding was made available by the state Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee during the 2022 session and administered through Commerce as part of the three-state agency partnership. Applications were sought this summer when Pierce County was chosen as one of five counties asked to submit proposals. Pierce County was allocated $35 million for the July 1 to June 30, 2022, state fiscal year. Three funding sources allow a mix of capital and operational uses.
Learn more about the Comprehensive Plan to End Homelessness.
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Kari Moore, Pierce County Communications