WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee Valley isn’t doing enough to get homeless people into housing and could lose some of about $1 million in funding, the state Department of Commerce says.
Chelan and Douglas counties have not met their goals for 2018 of expanding resources to unsheltered people, people living on the streets without housing, Commerce said in a letter to the Chelan-Douglas Homelessness Steering Committee.
The state wants to provide resources to 60 percent of unsheltered people in every community across the state, according to the letter, discussed by the committee Wednesday.
To reach that goal communities are being asked to increase access by 10 percent each year. Chelan and Douglas counties were at 37 percent in 2017 and increased 2 percent to 39 percent in 2018.
If things don’t improve the counties could lose state-grant funding, said Oliver Crain, city of Wenatchee housing programs coordinator. The Chelan-Douglas Homelessness Steering Committee receives about $1 million in state grants.
The first steps the state will take, though, will be to provide technical assistance to see if they can help fix the problem, Crain said.
The state tracks the percentage of unsheltered people using the Homeless Management Information System, not the annual Point in Time Count, he said. Anytime someone enters or leaves a housing program in the Wenatchee Valley they are enrolled in the information system.
This problem further complicates a debate occurring inside of the steering committee about whether to put money toward services or save it for large capital projects.
The Chelan-Douglas Steering Committee agreed in late May to set aside $310,637 over the next two years for an affordable housing or a low-barrier shelter project.
Chelan County Commissioner Kevin Overbay said one of the biggest problems with homelessness in the valley is the lack of housing available. He hopes putting a pot of money aside will inspire a low-income housing project, similar to the one being built now by Catholic Family Charities on Mission Street south of Lincoln Park.
East Wenatchee Mayor Steve Lacy, however, on Wednesday said more money should be put into existing programs like Women’s Resource Center, YWCA, United Way and other nonprofits.
“I don’t think my position is unclear,” Lacy said. “I really do believe that we would be better served by putting more money into these programs that aren’t getting the money they need.”