North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Arlington works to fight addiction, homelessness

 

Christopher Andersson

Arlington Community Resource Center volunteer Tina Lawson helps sort some donations given to the center to help individuals who are homeless on June 30.

The city of Arlington is beginning some initiatives, and continuing others, meant to help fight homelessness and addiction in the city.

On June 19 the City Council passed an ordinance establishing a Social Services Fund that will be used to assist those who are seeking treatment.

"There will be homeless people who come to our firefighters and our police officers and they'll say 'I'm ready to go, I'm done with this life,'" said Kristin Banfield, communications manager for the city of Arlington.

"But there is a gap between that time and when we can get them into a facility," she said.

The fund is meant to provide funding for hotel stays, laundromat services, meals and ground or air transportation to a rehabilitation facility.

"We need to make sure that during that time they have shelter, so they don't go back on the street and change their mind," said Banfield.

Helping people who are dealing with addiction immediately act on that desire for rehabilitation is important.

"A lot of our barrier is when someone comes in here and is ready for treatment, they'll come in and say 'hey I'm ready for treatment' and if we can't find them treatment that day, we lose them for another couple of months," said Peggy Ray, program manager at the Arlington Community Resource Center, a center which serves many homeless individuals as part of their mission.

Ray said that oftentimes those individuals are afraid of dealing with the symptoms of withdrawal, so will go back to drugs quickly if they can't get to a rehabilitation center.

Because of the lack of local rehabilitation centers, sometimes people seeking to get free of addiction have to travel far.

"Local facilities often have no open beds so we often have to send them to California or Arizona," said Banfield.

She added the recently opened Smokey Point Behavioral Hospital helps, but can't fill all the area's needs.

Banfield said that the fund is tightly controlled.

"There are a lot of approvals that this spending has to go through to make sure the expenses are necessary," she said.

She described the social services fund as "one small part that is going to fit into the overall puzzle" of fighting panhandling, homelessness and opioid abuse in the community.

Through a grant the city hired an outside consultant to help look at the community's services and find the gaps in needs.

"It will help us identify the gaps in our service and what services we have available to help people," said Banfield.

The results of that survey and planned to be released in the fall after being shared with the City Council and mayor.

The city has also offered a "Keep the Change" campaign to encourage citizens to donate to services and housing program rather than directly to homeless individuals.

"Our community is generous and we just want to show that there is a way to give back," said Banfield.

Christopher Andersson

Arlington Community Resource Center volunteer Amiya Alcocer helps sort some donations given to the center to help individuals who are homeless on June 30.

Ray said that she is a proponent of donating to services rather than individuals as well.

"I think that is huge. It is saying 'please, let us get them off the streets and into homes,'" she said.

Banfield said that the Social Services Fund started as a gift from the Cascade Valley Health Foundation and there is work being done so that individuals can donate to that program as well.

Ray said she was optimistic about a lot of the work being done in Arlington and the surrounding areas.

"Arlington, Lake Stevens, Granite Falls and Marysville are really coming together to help the homeless population and I think its beautiful because its not just 'hey, lets get them out of our city and run them to another city,'" she said.

More information about the Arlington Community Resource Center is available at http://www.lcsnw.org/seattle/arlington.html.

 

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