As a result of this year’s competitive allocation process for money to combat homelessness, Yakima Neighborhood Health Services received $414,000 — short of the $1.04 million it requested for rapid rehousing and rental assistance. It also received $120,000 for capital improvements to the Roy’s Market building.
Neighborhood Health still received the single largest piece of the $1.9 million Yakima Valley Council of Governments had to distribute this year, at 28 percent, but the amount was far lower than the agency’s customary 75 percent of the pie.
Applicant requests this year totaled more than $4 million, so there was no way to fully fund everyone.
Transform Yakima Together received $416,000 for the encampment and 24 planned tiny houses, roughly 22 percent of YVCOG’s disbursement for the year, in the church-based organization’s first year of providing homeless services.
Preparing for the potential loss of funds, Neighborhood Health told landlords in May that their tenants wouldn’t be staying after June (though directors hoped they would receive the money and renew the leases). Clients have been moving out for the past two weeks. The agency is working with them to find alternative housing, but some are already back at the encampment.
“They dismantled much of what we’ve had in place for years. It’s taken years to develop some of these relationships with private landlords,” said Rhonda Hauff, Neighborhood Health chief operations officer. “With an affordable housing rental vacancy rate of 2 percent or less, it’s taken a long time for many of us to find landlords that were willing to work with us. And to have to evict 26 people ... it’s heartbreaking.”
Because Neighborhood Health was pursuing the housing grants on a renewal basis, it could not apply for other federal grants as a contingency — those grants would have supplanted the state or federal money it was already receiving.
The agency still has about 47 units of housing through a different federal grant.
Andy Ferguson with Transform Yakima, which plans to build 24 tiny homes in church parking lots in the next 12 months in addition to running Camp Hope, said they are open to anyone who needs shelter at the encampment.
“There won’t be an immediate impact, in the next few months, but in the next year or two, as our program expands, we will replace the capacity that was lost in the other programs,” he said.
But while the encampment says it’s open to all, its maximum capacity is 50 people, and it doesn’t work for everyone who lost housing and shelter services, especially families with children.
Though Neighborhood Health still received a portion of its requested funding through YVCOG, Triumph Treatment Services was completely cut off this year.
At stake is Triumph’s emergency family shelter, which provided more than 800 bed-nights to adults and children in May. The 15-unit shelter lets families stay for up to 90 days, providing intensive case management to help them look for work and other housing during that time.
Melinda MacCalla, 33, has been in the shelter with her three children for two months. She had been an active drug user and homeless for three years before going to prison for two; when she got out, the Union Gospel Mission helped connect her with Triumph and its drug treatment program.
She’s been clean now for almost two years and will soon be moving into Triumph’s transitional housing while she continues to look for employment and other housing.
“Triumph has been a godsend for me,” MacCalla said.
Because of the structure and services the agency provides, “I’m going to be able to go into my housing environment and I’m going to be OK this time, and that hasn’t happened to me for a long time,” she said.
Money for Triumph’s transitional housing also was cut. Triumph directors say they will not evict anyone in housing and are working to find other funds, but are not going to be accepting anyone new into the family shelter.
Families with children are not permitted at the encampment, and the standard maximum stay at the Gospel Mission is seven days, though the Gospel Mission will extend that for families who prove they’re continuing to look for housing and jobs.
Also defunded was Neighborhood Health’s medical respite program, which allows homeless individuals who are being discharged from the hospital to recuperate before heading back to the street, and served about 60 people and 1,200 bed nights last year.
The Noah’s Ark 30-bed shelter in Wapato failed to win any funds; parent organization Generating Hope applied for $100,000 to stabilize its shoestring budget, made up mostly of community donations.
“Every year has been a struggle, to get people to pay attention to us, to fight against all those who would much rather just get rid of the homeless,” Noah’s Ark director David Hacker read from a prepared statement at Tuesday’s Housing Policy and Planning Council meeting. “And now after all these years, here I am having to compete and fight with those who should be our partners in this effort.”
Janice Gonzales, who works in Lower Valley emergency housing with the Northwest Community Action Center, said the cuts to Neighborhood Health include impacts to that agency’s Lower Valley housing.
“Now it’s just us. Obviously, I was concerned about that,” she said. The center received about $350,000 for rapid rehousing and rental assistance. “We’ll do what we can, but there are less resources available. ... Whether or not there is a better way, I can’t really answer that, but Neighborhood Health was doing a good job.”
• Molly Rosbach can be reached at 509-577-7728 or email@example.com.