New partnership to help homeless stabilize

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‘Kitsap Connect’ pilots 18-month program at Bremerton (Wash.) Corps.

By Neil Munoz –

The Salvation Army in Bremerton, Wash., has partnered with Kitsap Connect to create a unique initiative aimed to help up to 50 of the community’s most vulnerable individuals facing homelessness.

The Kitsap Connect Demonstration Project marks a new relationship between Kitsap County, Wash., and agencies including the Public Health District, Kitsap Mental Health, and Kitsap Community Resources. The goal is to guide referred individuals dealing with homelessness, chemical dependency and disability into stabilization. The project offers a long-term support system that has the potential to reduce homelessness, cut costs and change the lives of some of Bremerton’s highest-need individuals.

“So far several individuals have gone into treatment and have been able to access medical services that they would not have done on their own,” said Sheryl Ann Piercy, Social Services Director at the Bremerton Corps.

Fully funded by a $500,000, 18-month grant, paid by a small percentage of the Mental Health and Chemical Dependency Tax in Kitsap County, the project launched on Aug. 1. It will provide five full-time positions that include a registered public health nurse, a certified chemical dependency counselor, a housing case specialist and a certified mental health professional.

Kitsap Connect leased an office at The Salvation Army Bremerton Corps, which offers meals, clothing, laundry and hygiene services. The collaborative effort provides intensive case management for clients through referrals. “It was an obvious location to house the Kitsap Connect staff at the Bremerton Corps and give them complete immersion with the people that would benefit most from the program,” Piercy said.

According to Piercy, 88 percent of the clients referred by The Salvation Army to the pilot were homeless and lived outside. These referred homeless clients have no shelter with little to no source of income. A main focus is to work with the clients to ease the ongoing financial burden to local Emergency Management Services, law enforcement, and the city and county court systems. The project will provide services and transportation that most agencies are not equipped to offer and prevent clients from being victimized.

The Salvation Army is working closely with the Bremerton Police Department to keep clients safe as they are considered easy targets for criminals. They are also working to ensure that other criminals who prey on the vulnerable homeless clients are removed from the facility.

“We work in partnership with law enforcement to share any information we can to identify individuals that have warrants and who are being sought by local and county law enforcement,” said Major Scott Ramsey, Corps Officer of the Bremerton Corps.

According to Robin O’Grady, Program Coordinator of Kitsap Connect, there are currently 25 program participants, but that number could soon double to 50. Of the 25 clients, The Salvation Army has referred 19 to Kitsap Connect since the project launch. Two were at risk of losing their housing because mental and physical health barriers hindered their ability to be individually successful. The other 17 referred clients were living in a place not suitable for habitation.

Moving forward, Kitsap Connect is working with the community to identify landlords willing to participate in providing low-income housing for homeless clients. Those who are eligible will have the opportunity to acquire housing if a Landlord Coalition can be established.

The program is projected to conclude on Dec. 31, 2017, unless further grants or funding become available.

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