Walla Walla is, and has been, taking the issue of homelessness extremely seriously.
Yet, so, too, are many communities in Washington state.
And that’s precisely why Gov. Jay Inslee is making the right decision to increase spending on homelessness at the state level in his proposed 2020 supplemental budget.
Homelessness is not a Walla Walla problem or a Seattle problem or a Spokane problem. It’s a statewide and nationwide problem.
As The Seattle Times reported recently, homeless populations were found in 35 of 39 counties during last year’s point-in-time count.
In recent years, the effort in Walla Walla to find suitable temporary shelter for the homeless has yielded mostly positive results.
The city now has a sleep center — tents and 31 Conestoga huts — at 15th and Rees avenues, just south of the Washington State Penitentiary. It was established last spring after the previous shelter at Fourth and Rees avenue was shut down.
No, it’s not a perfect situation — far from it — but the city government and volunteers from the Walla Walla Alliance for the Homeless do an admirable job. And the effort provides a much needed safe space for people living in homelessness.
If more state funding were available, it would allow communities such as Walla Walla to do even more to assist those living in homelessness.
Inslee is proposing spending more than $300 million over three years to build emergency shelters and expand housing programs, with the goal of cutting unsheltered homelessness in half across the state.
“It’s a frustration as a governor to be governor of a state with the most successful economy in the United States, and have a homelessness problem,” Inslee said at a news conference announcing his budget plan. “It’s just a terrible irony.”
According to the state Department of Commerce, Washington has the fifth-highest per-capita rate of unsheltered homelessness.
The Walla Walla community, by its actions to help the homeless, has made that clear. Having a statewide effort will make the local effort even more effective.
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