Next steps for homelessness in Yakima - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Next steps for homelessness in Yakima

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YAKIMA, WA - We may all be dealing with frigid temperatures and snowy roads, but winter will be wrapping up soon.

Unfortunately, this means emergency winter weather shelters for the homeless in our area will be closing.

Some current ideas the city has for solutions include bringing more local churches on board to host encampments or renting a new indoor area, but no plans have been made. That's why the Yakima Conference of Governments is inviting service providers in the community to come together and seek solutions.

"A lot of people don't know where to send people when the population of homelessness kind of is scary, because they don't understand what to do with them, where to send them," says Crystal Testerman, Homeless Program Manager of Yakima Conference of Governments. "So, these workshops are intended to get contacts for city officials, for police departments...we have a lot of partnerships coming, school districts."

Testerman says finding new partners who can shelter the homeless population is the highest priority.

"Housing First Approach is that we get them housing, and then after we get them housing we can give them their services," she explains. "This is really the direction we need to go, and unfortunately we have such a low vacancy rate, it's like two percent, that we need to come up with some new ideas."

In addition to working with schools, churches, and landlords to find spaces, the workshops will also focus on homeless services such as substance abuse help, employment opportunities, and transportation.

Testerman says this time of year is the perfect time for everyone to come together and help in whatever way they can.

The workshops are scheduled for February 16th from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Grandview Public Library and the 22nd from 1:30 to 4:30 at ESD 105 in Yakima.

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