Mayor announces formation of community task force to study homelessness

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson on Wednesday announced he is forming a Community Task Force on Homelessness. The group will be tasked with providing recommendations to the mayor “on how best to respond to the current and future challenges that unhoused residents face in our city,” the announcement said, adding that “the task force will balance compassion for unhoused individuals with the rights of all city residents in formulating potential near-term solutions.”

The task force is expected to provide recommendations to the mayor in early January.

“Homelessness is not a new issue in our city and region; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has put some people in the vulnerable position of losing their homes or facing potential homelessness,” Nelson said. It is crucial we help those most in need to find shelter and housing, which can assist in getting them back on their feet. I am eager to receive the task force’s recommendations to find workable solutions.”

The task force will focus on recommendations that include:

  1. Options for temporary shelter/housing for unhoused residents
  2. Options to revise the Edmonds City Code to address unauthorized use of public spaces
  3. Ways to assist vulnerable residents to prevent them from becoming homeless
  4. The task force expertise will be broad and will include members from the following organizations and potentially more:

The task force expertise will be broad, the announcement said. The only named members so far are Edmonds City Councilmembers Vivian Olson and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, but the group will also include representatives from the following:

  • YWCA Pathways for Women
  • Several local churches
  • South County Fire Community Resource paramedics
  • City of Edmonds (Compass Health) social worker
  • Edmonds Police Department
  • City of Edmonds Planning Department
  • City of Edmonds Human Services Division
  • Korean Community Service Center
  • Edmonds Senior Center social worker
  • City Attorney
  • Snohomish County Public Defenders Association social worker
    1. # 2… Please clarify this. “Options to revise the Edmonds City Code to address unauthorized use of public spaces”.

  1. The more money the City spends on “homeless services,” the more homeless people it will attract – particularly if sobriety and / or mental health treatment are not required to receive services. I’m a former social worker and I know that giving free stuff without requiring rehabilitation makes homeless peoples’ lives worse, not better. Just look at the ruined city of Seattle for proof.

  2. OMG, another “task force” ie., committee, to study a problem that has been with us for eons, just more visible and recognizable now. Of the listed potential participants, it looks like a group of NGO’s and social services organizations and city bureaucrats that all have skin in the game. The city might be netter served to look at what the city of Everett and Snohomish County are doing about this problem instead of attempting to reinvent the wheel. More wasted time and money. Lots of talk but little action to show for it.

  3. Homelessness is a symptom and result of any number of unsolved social problems. These can be economic, health, substance abuse, domestic violence type problems or combinations of them all. What the homeless generally need is some sort of basic temporary and safe housing option while they try to get whatever social problem(s) they have resolved. That is, assuming they know they have a social problem and want to get it solved. There are, of course, some people who refuse to admit they have a problem and don’t really want to alter their chosen lifestyle in any meaningful way.

    I tend to see the homeless as our own internal “refugees” from life and reality problem which cannot be easily solved anymore than international refugee problems can be easily solved. You can’t solve homelessness until you get a handle on all the things that cause and contribute to it. In the meantime we will have to provide some sort of humane public housing and services or just give up our parks and public spaces as Seattle and other major cities have done. Someone will have to pay for all this. No one will want to. There won’t be any simple or cheap answers to this. One answer would be to build more human cages which seems to be the desired solution and option coming from some areas of the political spectrum. That too will cost money. I’d like to see large regional housing and treatment centers, so our police and fire persons would have some place to take these people when they have to roust them from the public places. Otherwise, all they can do is move them around from time to time which won’t solve anything.

  4. Millions have been spent for years still no answer. People have a choice to be homeless. (The majority 80%) are addicts. We would have been smarter to build in-house mandatory rehabs. No one wants to make the hard decisions. So we won’t. We build free apartments, and the dealers move across the street from them. Place trashed in a couple years. Then to make ourselves feel good we do it again. Bottom line addicts need to be locked up so the dealers can’t get to them and they can’t hurt themselves. ( and maybe just maybe some will sober up.). They would sell their kids to get drugs. (Been tried and worked multiple times.). There will always be poor…someone very famous said that…you know who??

    1. Ms. Trevino.

      I know some homeless people, almost all of them veterans (mine is perhaps a skewed sample set). Not a one of them made a conscious choice to be homeless, and very few of them are addicts. They don’t need “mandatory rehabs” or to be locked up; what they do need is some compassion, and the sincere belief that someone cares about them. Finally, none that I know would sell their kids to get drugs, but some would probably sell their own souls to stop the pain (approximately 18 do exactly that each day in this country).

      So, how about we not generalize and compartmentalize, as we all search for a solution? Many of these people don’t just need, but also deserve our help. They earned it. Remembering that is not too big a lift.

      1. This should be the shortest lived “Task Force” ever!
        Basic Solution/Action:
        1.) Enforce the existing laws:
        “No camping/living on Public Lands”!
        2.) Encounter homeless individual; options, transport to private site, or jail overnight.
        3.) Record each encounter details into data base.
        4.) Future encounters: Repeat 1-3, until individual gets the message.
        Exception: Compassion towards veterans, transport to VA Treatment Center.
        “What works? Tough love, only thing that will work!” (Joy Trevino)

        1. Moving the problem out of “your” city is a common response. You and I know this just makes it someone else’s problem. Whack-a-mole is not really a solution. Frankly this is a national problem and the United States is not interested in solving it. Bottom line is it will not go away in the foreseeable future.

        2. Mark Waldin: Agreed! However, addressing the problem with “money”, will only invite more. “Tough Love” by Edmonds and other communities will make living on the streets impossible. Forcing a decision: either get help, or move on!
          There are lots of treatment options available, but they have to own it!!

  5. On July 31, 2021, I emailed Mayor Mike Nelson and City Council and asked:

    1. What is a Task Force and how does such differ from the City’s Advisory Boards and Commissions governed under ECC Title 10 BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS?

    2. Is a “Task Force” subject to the Open Public Meetings Act?

    3. Are Task Force documents, emails and text messages subject to Public Record requests?

    4. Is the conduct of members of a Task Force governed by the Edmonds Code of Ethics like the conduct of elected officials and appointed citizen volunteers serving in an official capacity (i.e. Boards and Commissions)? If not, why not?

    5. What Edmonds Ordinance(s) governs the formation and use of Task Forces?

    Maybe I should have also asked if Task Forces are required to include citizens of Edmonds and how those citizens are chosen.

    I informed all 8 elected officials that MRSC has reported that definitions of an advisory board differ among jurisdictions. MRSC provides two examples that illustrate the differences in practice.

    The City of Port Townsend includes task forces in its definition of advisory body and the City of Lynnwood excludes them.

    I informed my elected officials that a search of Edmonds City Code as well as a search of the proposed Council Rules of Procedures fails to find any discussion of Task Force. I asked if a Task Force is a “Work Group” as discussed in Resolution 1306? The term “Work Group” is also not found anywhere in Edmonds City Code.

    I concluded by asking:
    -Why does City of Edmonds government fail to address important concepts like Task Forces whereas other Cities do address such?
    -Is leaving Task Forces mysterious and vague in the best interest of our citizens?

    None of my questions have been answered by any of my 8 elected officials.

  6. Paul, this is an area I actually know more than I care to. Look at statistics across the USA boards. You will find my addict numbers correct. Some higher some lower but very close. As a child who expects to be homeless? However if you were to walk into most homeless camps and ask if they would like a job and clean place to live but no drugs, alcohol etc, they would not go. About 20% need only a hand up which may be your friend. But not the majority. Contact some charities downtown Seattle you can see for yourself. Volunteer you will see for yourself. I have done both. Lost my first husband to addiction…almost my son until God came to his aid. What works? Tough love. Only thing that will. Go to a Alanon meeting..research.

  7. The big issue for those of us who are able to lead regular, non addicted and reasonably economically secure lives, is how do we get our parks and public spaces back, or keep them open and clean in the first place? Personally, I’m tired of seeing tents and blue tarps on every inch of public space and getting pan handled at every place on the public highways that I’m obligated to stop. (That one is simple to solve if everyone just quit giving them money).

    If we can afford to spend 3 trillion dollars to basically lose a war in Afghanistan and get a bunch of American Service people killed, maimed and mentally damaged, we can surly afford to solve this home grown problem of homelessness. That money would have provided a basic home for every homeless person in America and then some. The fact is, we just don’t care enough about these people to provide a space and the basic needs of life to them. If they want to use drugs or booze to feel better, just let them do it cheaply and put the criminals and drug lords out of business. We did it to Al Capone and we could do it against all the El Chapos of the world if we wanted to. It’s going to cost a large fortune to do this right whether you build public housing or more prison cages. Tough love will cost more than no love at all, which is what we have now.

  8. Mayor Nelson is so desperate for a Woke issue to hang his hat on…he has high political ambitions and Edmonds is only being used for a starting point.

  9. I don’t see a single taxpayer on this task force. All are going to be members representing some constituency. Something is seriously wrong here.

  10. The just previous Mayor and Council established an Edmonds Housing Commission which pretty much studied the various problems, talked about them and spaced it all pretty much, when Covid struck. Now we have a new homelessness task force in the making that will just re hash it all over again. It’s like watching the Groundhog Day Movie observing this governmental farce we have going in this city. City government reform task force? Count me in on that one, if we ever wise up and have one.

  11. On July 31, 2021, I emailed Mayor Mike Nelson and City Council and asked:

    1. What is a Task Force and how does such differ from the City’s Advisory Boards and Commissions governed under ECC Title 10 BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS?
    2. Is a “Task Force” subject to the Open Public Meetings Act?
    3. Are Task Force documents, emails and text messages subject to Public Record requests?
    4. Is the conduct of members of a Task Force governed by the Edmonds Code of Ethics like the conduct of elected officials and appointed citizen volunteers serving in an official capacity (i.e. Boards and Commissions)? If not, why not?
    5. What Edmonds Ordinance(s) governs the formation and use of Task Forces?

    Still no answers to any of my questions.

    Ordinance 3724 provides evidence that the 2009 City Council believed that Task Forces are established via Ordinance. The title to Ordinance 3724 is as follows (Please excuse the All Caps as the actual Ordinance title is in All Caps):

    ORDINANCE NO. 3724


    Should the Task Force to study homelessness also have been established via Ordinance? If not, why not? What governs the formation and use of Task Forces by Edmonds City Government?

  12. Maybe the City can coordinate with regional task forces and determine if there are alternatives to build permanent housing in the area leveraging some of these committed dollars:

    Maybe they have already, I would suspect so. Seattle spends a huge amount of money on the homeless issue, and yet the issues still grow. I am looking for successful case studies of programs that work – but what does not work are goals that are different by all agencies (regional, state wide, nationwide, city wide) and tracked using different denominators.

    I am not an addiction or homeless expert. I have no idea what will fix the problem. A good case study in what is not fixing the problem is evident in the City to our south…

  13. Still no answers to any of my questions about what governs how a Task Force is established and used. I fear Edmonds City government prefers to treat it like the wild west where the only rule is that there are no rules.

    I’ve shown that City Council established a Disaster Recovery Task Force via Ordinance 3724 in 2009. Now I have recalled that City Council set aside $250,000 in the 2018 budget, formed a Task Force and hired KONE Consulting to conduct an assessment to determine the extent of homelessness in Edmonds and to identify services and potential funding available.

    How did the 2018 City Council form that Task Force? What is the status of City Council’s Homelessness Task Force and how does it interact with the Mayor’s new Homelessness Task Force? Why would a 2021 City Councilmember sit on the Mayor’s Homelessness Task Force when City Council established its own Task Force in the past?

    The 2019 Budget Summary indicates that not a penny of the $250,000 was spent out of the Homelessness Response Fund. The 2020 Budget Summary indicates that $24,557 was spent out of the Edmonds Homelessness Response Fund.

    The 2020 Budget Summary indicates the following Fund Balance at the end of 2020:
    Fund 018 – Edmonds Homelessness Response Fund – $225,443
    That means less than 10% of the money budgeted for homelessness response was used during the 3 years ending December 31, 2020.

    I encourage others to read the December 5, 2017 City Council Meeting Minutes which include powerful Audience Comments about these issues. One Audience Comment made by current Councilmember Laura Johnson before she was on Council discussed:

    “In June 2016 homelessness was one of the top five ideas at Mayor Earling’s town hall. In August 2017, Mayor Earling announced appointments to a housing strategy task force, stating many groups in the region are working on housing and homelessness issues and the City needed its own approach, one that recognizes good examples from others but tailored to our community, our people and our needs.”

    This is yet another window into our City government.

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