Housing

Skagit County recently launched project to tackle homelessness

North Star Project development funded by federal aid
June 4, 2022 at 5:00 a.m.

By CHARLOTTE ALDEN
Staff Reporter

Skagit County plans to evaluate existing homelessness strategies and consider new approaches through a recent federally funded project. 

Skagit County last month launched the North Star Project, which aims to address homelessness and behavioral health by encouraging collaboration between multiple levels of government, according to an April press release. The county is contracting with consultant Tenfold Health to help design the planning and assessment processes. 

Over the next two years, Skagit County hopes to develop “a shared North Star vision” for the county and implement a to-be-developed “North Star Framework.” The county has budgeted $250,000 in funding for the project for 2022, all to come from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars. The same amount in ARPA funding is earmarked for 2023. 

Skagit County Commissioner Ron Wesen said this project is about coordinating the efforts among the towns and the county to tackle homelessness. Specifically, focusing on uniting funding sources to ensure the project is coordinating money spent on different initiatives.  

“The overarching, the think-big type of goal is to have zero homelessness,” Wesen said. He also noted there isn’t a timeline to tackle what he called the “bold goal.” 

Skagit County recorded a vacancy rate of 0.9% in 2021

“We just don’t have enough housing available for people who want to use it,” Wesen said. “It makes it very difficult for people moving into the area, and also for people living here [who] want to be able to stay here and enjoy the area we have.” 

A joint statement by Skagit County commissioners and the mayors of Anacortes, Burlington, Mount Vernon and Sedro-Woolley said the project will also aim to reach “underserved community members” and “ensure the delivery of quality services” to county residents. 

A work plan for the project contains four milestones in the first phase, the vision-development phase. 

By June, the county expects Tenfold to share an executive summary call to action and workplan with local leaders. By August, they’re projecting that Tenfold, Skagit County cities and stakeholders will present a “current-state diagram” to the Steering Committee.  

By September, they hope to discuss the framework in a Steering Committee retreat with a goal of receiving signed compacts from county and city officials by December. 

Danica Sessions, the communications manager for Skagit County, said once the plan is developed, the county is expecting to spend at least $15 million per year on the implementation of the plan. 

Skagit County previously approached the issue of homelessness through a 10-year plan that expires in June this year. Homelessness became particularly visible in the county last year when flooding pushed people out of an encampment in Edgewater Park in Mount Vernon. 

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