Grays Harbor County Commissioner Randy Ross speaks about the City of Aberdeen’s request for funding for its homeless camp at the morning commissioners meeting on Tuesday. (Thorin Sprandel | Grays Harbor News Group)

Grays Harbor County Commissioner Randy Ross speaks about the City of Aberdeen’s request for funding for its homeless camp at the morning commissioners meeting on Tuesday. (Thorin Sprandel | Grays Harbor News Group)

Commissioner Ross suggests homeless task force

Grays Harbor County Commissioner Randy Ross has proposed the creation of a task force made up of officials from the county and City of Aberdeen and other agencies that deal with homelessness. He raised the issue Tuesday at the county commission meeting, spurred by a request from the city for help paying for a sanctioned, temporary homeless camp near City Hall.

Ross said the task force would include housing staff and legal counsel from the county, a county commissioner, housing/public officials from the City of Aberdeen and partner agencies such as CCAP, which contracts with the county on some homeless services.

The suggestion came after Ross said a request from the city for funding the temporary homeless camp behind City Hall didn’t meet legal requirements set out for low-barrier permanent shelter funding set forth in the County’s Five-Year Plan to Address Unmet Housing Needs.

“Funding the county receives is restricted or heavily incentivized to use for permanent housing solutions,” according to Ross.

“We have nothing in the homeless housing fund for emergency shelters. It would have to be a permanent, low-barrier shelter to meet the criteria. However, the conversation’s not over, so I’m hoping to create a task force that brings the City of Aberdeen to the table,” Ross said.

A “collaborative, permanent, low-barrier shelter” is one of the options the task force may work on, according to Ross.

Lack of funds was also “one of the big issues” with the Aberdeen’s proposal, according to Ross.

In the last fiscal year, Grays Harbor County has spent more than $1.6 million in homeless housing services including 41 households being provided emergency shelter, 132 households prevented from experiencing homelessness and 178 households being rapidly rehoused after becoming homeless, said Ross.

The county’s homeless housing system is still vastly underfunded, he added.

Document recording fees are the only funds the county has available for new projects and those funds aren’t enough to cover the city’s request. Ross said the state has reached out with funding that would be available to help fund the temporary homeless camp behind Aberdeen’s City Hall.

Requests for state funding have to be in by April 1, Ross said, adding that he met with Aberdeen City Council President Dee Anne Shaw to discuss sources for homeless funding.

Shaw said on Monday she met with Ross over the weekend “to keep him in the loop as to what I’m learning from state officials.”

“Aberdeen is absolutely interested in participating in development of a low-barrier shelter,” Shaw said.

“We would love for the county to follow its plan so we can be out of the tent shelter business,” she added.

Ross confirmed that he had a sit-down meeting with Shaw about homeless funding and said “Hopefully, we’ll get some traction.”