County appoints local leaders, community members to homelessness task force

13-member advisory body will recommend homeless spending, help draft five-year plan

The Grays Harbor County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday appointed a group of 13 people to advise the board on issues related to homeless housing.

The appointees are the county’s new Homeless Housing Task Force, a group mandated for each county by state law.

The law states that the task force’s primary function is to develop a five-year plan to address short-term and long-term housing options for unhoused people.

That legal requirement hadn’t been fulfilled in Grays Harbor County in recent years. The county’s Health and Human Services Board drafted the current five-year plan in 2019 but disbanded during the pandemic.

Grays Harbor County Public Health housing program manager Cassie Lentz informed commissioners about the task force requirement last August, and commissioners moved the following month to begin constructing the task force.

After receiving 20 applications, a three-member committee — District 2 Commissioner Kevin Pine and county board of health members Char Hood and Jason Halstead — interviewed and suggested task force members.

The advisory body includes individuals from across the county and from different facets of the homelessness issue, from lived experience to the justice system: Mike McNickle, director of Grays Harbor County Public Health; Kacey Morrison, an Aberdeen City Councilmember; DeElaina Caldwell, Hoquiam’s Police Navigator; Jim Sorensen, Elma’s former mayor and current county commissioner candidate; Regina Jackson, a tribal representative to the task force; John Shaw, a Harbor Regional Health board member; Jon Martin, former mayor of Ocean Shores and interim Greater Grays Harbor Inc. director; Cache McCallum, a housing manager for Coastal Community Action Program; Cory Ellis, a local probation officer lead with the Department of Corrections; Martha Webb, representing the faith community; Tracy Clayton, a person with lived experience; Scout Marohn, a youth advocate; and Gwyn Tarrence, the county’s veterans’ services navigator.

Task force members from government will serve three-year terms, medical providers will serve one-year terms, while others will serve two-year terms.

While commissioners had the option to appoint up to 25 people to the task force, six people who were interviewed were not ultimately selected, including Liz Ellis, an Aberdeen City Councilmember, Mike Harris, a veterans’ advocate in Ocean Shores, and other medical providers and “at-large” members. Pine said the hiring committee decided to choose only one representative from each different affiliation.

“We wanted to have multiple viewpoints from multiple perspectives,” Pine said.

Per state law, the task force will also ensure county homelessness guidelines are consistent with statewide housing plans, make plans for spending homelessness funding and provide regular updates to commissioners.

“I’m not a social worker and neither are either of my seat mates,” District 3 County Commissioner Vickie Raines said in September after deciding to establish the task force.“It will make it I think less of a conflict between the commissioners, because we selected this board, this is the recommendations that they have — are we going to follow the recommendations of our task force?”

Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or