Thurston County Board of Health Declares Homelessness a Public Health Crisis in Special Meeting Updated 6/16/18

UPDATE:  The resolution passed!  View the livestream of the meeting here.

On Thursday, June 14, 2018 the Thurston County Board of Commissioners in its role as the Board of Health convened a special meeting at 10 a.m. in Building One, Room 280 to consider passing resolutions declaring the Opioid Epidemic and Homelessness a Public Health Crisis in Thurston County. The meeting was open to the public and can be viewed live on the County’s YouTube channel.

Housing and Homelessness as a Public Health Issue
American Public Health Association
https://www.apha.org/policies-and-advocacy/public-health-policy-statements/policy-database/2018/01/18/housing-and-homelessness-as-a-public-health-issue

Actions:

  • Attend the meeting.  Consider providing up to 3 minutes of public testimony at the beginning of the meeting.
    • When: Thursday June 14, 2018 at 10am
      Where: Courthouse Building 1 Room 280, 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW, Olympia WA 98502
  • You can email comments on the resolution online at http://www.thurstoncountywa.gov/email/pages/default.aspx…
  • If you prefer direct email you can reach the Board chair, Commissioner Bud Blake (blakeb@co.thurston.wa.us) amd public health director Schelli Slaughter (slaughs@co.thurston.wa.us)

More Information:

Below is a letter from Olympia City Council Member Renata Rollins with more detail about the Resolution and what it means for our community:

“Dear Just Housing, PiPE, and Brigid’s Well, and other Beloved Community members,

There’s so much SHIFT going on right now in the homelessness response world in local government, I am sending you news I just learned — that tomorrow, Thursday at 10am in courthouse building 1 room 280 – the County Board of Health will be considering a resolution declaring homelessness a public health crisis in Thurston County.

This is not only a policy/urgency shift at the county but it provides direction to county staff to identify additional resources to mitigate and prevent public health emergencies associated with homelessness.

Besides declaring homelessness a countywide public health crisis and declaring solidarity with Olympia’s recent resolution establishing immediate actions to address homelessness, it takes the following actions —

  • directs the Public Health director to prioritize this issue through the new Office of Housing & Homeless Prevention (in coordination with other county departments & partners) to pursue targeted solutions that will prevent and reduce public health hazards associated with this crisis such as improved hygiene, sanitation, vaccination, access to healthcare, and healthy shelter and housing.
  • resolves to implement a county wide Code Blue plan to prevent death and illness related to hazardous weather conditions for vulnerable unsheltered populations…and to identify and allocate resources…to increase shelter capacity and identify funding to support the activation of code blue as needed.
  • directs the Public Health director to seek approval from the county commissioners to hire a homeless response coordinator to serve the entire county and work in partnership with the city of Olympia’s homeless response coordinator and staff from other jurisdictions to implement the county Homeless Housing Plan.
  • prioritize, evaluate and take proactive steps to address the underlying causes of homelessness, including housing affordability, domestic violence, behavioral and physical health, and health equity concerns and solutions that reduce racial, gender and ethnic disparities within the population of persons experiencing homelessness and fully implement the approved fair housing plan.

This happens tomorrow at a special meeting of the Board of Health, one hat our 3 commissioners wear. The board is comprised of our 3 county commissioners — John Hutchings, Gary Edwards and Bud Blake. Schelli Slaughter, public health director (former director of Family Support Center) drafted this resolution. (FYI There will also be a resolution presented tomorrow declaring an opioid emergency.)

You can advocate on this resolution by reaching the Board using this online form:
http://www.thurstoncountywa.gov/email/pages/default.aspx…

If you prefer direct email you can reach the Board chair, Commissioner Bud Blake, here:
blakeb@co.thurston.wa.us

You may wish to include public health director Schelli Slaughter:
slaughs@co.thurston.wa.us

Additionally, public comment is taken at the beginning of this meeting similar to Olympia City Council, 3 minutes per person. I plan to attend, though I am not organizing turnout, but you may wish to. It seems like a momentous moment in this shift of movement we’re all a part of and bearing witness to. It will require vigilance and creativity to make sure this moment bears fruit for the community and especially for those most marginalized by our systems.

Thank you thank you, for your continued advocacy, education and direction actions.

Sincerely,

Renata