Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

December 5, 2011 at 11:14am

Helping homelessness in Pierce County

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HOUSING FOR ALL >>>

As the administrator for homeless programs for Pierce County Community Connections, Troy Christensen works hard every day to eliminate homeless in the county and the surrounding areas.

But that goal is getting much tougher these days.

The programs Christensen oversees were making strides three years ago, as homeless in Pierce County dropped by 68 percent from 2005 to 2008.

"We were making great progress," Christensen says.

Then the national economy took a hit, wreaking havoc on many in the county. The wave not only shook those who got laid off, but it also struck a blow to many federal and state programs that provide people on the very edge of the poverty line much-needed income, Christensen says.

It also hurt small, local shelters and organizations that provide services to the homeless.

"It completely overwhelmed the network of our many providers," he says. "They have much smaller budgets to work with."

Those budgets are getting taxed mainly due to wave of new people seeking help.

"The majority of people that have requested services are repeat customers, but there is a lot more people affected by the economy calling for the first time," Christensen adds.

The administrator believes those numbers will continue to rise.

While the unemployment rate might be officially around nine percent in Pierce County, Christensen said that number is likely much higher.

"You could make a case for it being around 15 percent due to the fact it's not counting the people whose unemployment benefits have run out," he says.

And since the state has yet to balance its budget, more support programs could be on the chopping block, he adds.

But there are plenty of ways people can help out this holiday season when it comes to providing for the homeless.

There are several local agencies that work with Pierce County Community Connections: Associated Ministries (www.associatedministries.org), Metropolitan Development Council (www.mdc-tacoma.org), Helping Hand House (www.helpinghandhouse.org), Tacoma Rescue Mission (www.rescue-mission.org) and Shared Housing Services (www.shstac-pc.com).

"They can always use donations," Christensen says. "Homelessness is expanding and there are fewer resources to help people in Pierce County and on the Key Peninsula."

You can help

To donate money to United Way's effort to provide affordable housing to those in need, text HOUSE to 20222 and donate $10 to provide housing for all.

Filed under: Social Welfare, Community, Tacoma,
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