WENATCHEE — Wenatchee will fund homeless programs that were left out of funding allocations made by Chelan and Douglas counties.
The counties took control of homeless funds for the counties, Wenatchee and East Wenatchee in May after the city of Wenatchee gave up that role following the retirement of the city’s Housing Programs coordinator and tension between the city and county over the funds.
“When we switched over to the county, we sort of envisioned that they might do something like this against the recommendations of the steering committee and others,” Mayor Frank Kuntz said.
Wenatchee Community Development Director Glen DeVries, who brought the funding proposal before the city council on Thursday, said the counties opted to focus more on rural areas with low income needs.
Chelan County Housing Program Coordinator Sasha Sleiman could not be reached to comment.
According to DeVries, the Chelan-Douglas Homeless Housing Task Force’s funding recommendations, which were released on June 2, left deficiencies for five different programs — a loss he called “really problematic.”
One of the programs, a homeless outreach program through Women’s Resource Center (WRC), will not receive city funding either. DeVries said the individual in charge of the program was moving to another position, and Wenatchee and East Wenatchee are looking at a different model for outreach that would include an integrated system with law enforcement. That type of outreach program will come after the cities finish building a low-barrier sleep center. It will be funded by the recently passed 1590 tax.
The programs that did receive funding are:
- WRC’s landlord-tenant liaison program, which works with private landlords to help individuals with past evictions, bad credit or criminal background find and stay in rentals
- YWCA’s supportive housing program, which consists of seven units and a small apartment complex
- Peoples Foundation’s severe weather emergency shelter
- WRC’s Miller Park, a permanent supportive housing project with 20 units for individuals with diagnosed mental illness who are experiencing chronic homelessness
Rachel Todd, the executive director of YWCA North Central Washington, discussed the impact of YWCA’s supportive housing program during the city council meeting.
She said the people who live in YWCA’s supportive housing program are typically individuals who cannot find housing anywhere else in Wenatchee or East Wenatchee. One couple in the program, she said, had searched for housing for five years before moving into YWCA housing just before the pandemic hit.
“They had been living out of a car; living with family. They had been going all around the city trying to find housing...we were the last stop for them,” Todd said. “They have just really really flourished and they’re in such a better position now than they were a year and a half ago. I don’t even like to think about what might have happened had they not come to our apartments before the pandemic hit.”
The funding came from local document recording fees; funds from House Bills 2060, 1590 and 1406 Funds; ARPA federal funds; and local sales and use tax for affordable housing. DeVries said this funding will allow the programs to continue services into July, but additional funding or resources may be necessary through partnerships and grants from other agencies or jurisdictions.
This is the first time grants for homeless programs have been directly issued from the city of Wenatchee Homeless Program. More grants are anticipated this year as new programs are developed and implemented, according to DeVries.