Tacoma, Pierce County used combined $32.5M to focus on sheltering homeless

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(The Center Square) – The city of Tacoma and Pierce County recently held a joint study session regarding the homelessness crisis, with both jurisdictions focusing on funding to shelter people in need.

Tacoma’s dedicated funding to homeless services totals approximately $35.7 million, according to its 2023-2024 budget. The general fund makes up $24 million, or 67%, of funding, while $11.7 million stems from sales tax revenue.

Much like other jurisdictions across the state, Tacoma implemented a 0.1% increase in sales tax, or one cent for every $10 purchase. The generated revenue from the sales tax increase goes solely toward substance abuse or mental health treatment programs and services, including therapeutic court programs, case management and housing.

The city’s spending on sheltering makes up about 73% of the allocated funds towards the homelessness issue, with $26.2 million.

Pierce County dedicated $47.8 million to addressing homelessness throughout the region in its 2022-2023 budget. Unlike Tacoma, the county’s funding primarily comes from state and federal sources.

Out of the $47.8 million, the county funded $6.3 million for emergency shelters. Heather Moss, director of human services at Pierce County, said the county has started to spend more money on shelter services than ever before.

“Primarily during COVID, we really pivoted more to helping people get off the streets and become sheltered in some way,” Moss said during Tuesday’s joint study session. “It’s really the first step in getting someone housed, so we’ve spent more money than we have historically on investing in our shelter system across Pierce County.”

Pierce County’s 2023 Point-in-Time Count revealed that 2,148 homeless people were living unsheltered or in the county’s network of shelters in one night in January. Roughly 6,500 people were connected to the county’s homeless crisis response system during the same time.

Tacoma officials also note that 75% of homeless people in the city did not originally live in Tacoma.

Pierce County adopted its Comprehensive Plan to End Homelessness in 2022, which suggests regionalizing homelessness funding and governance at some level.

The main goal is to “create a unified homeless response system, including a unified regional approach with central decision-making authority of funding and services,” according to a December 2022 Pierce County executive summary. This includes collaborating with Tacoma.

The plan’s other goals include meeting the immediate needs of homeless people, including access to shelter, as well as expanding permanent housing.

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