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‘The resources are a big challenge’: HUD secretary talks youth homelessness

Aug 15, 2016
In The News

Congress and local governments in Western Washington should give more money to programs that combat youth homelessness, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro said Monday.

Castro was part of a panel with Democratic U.S. Rep. Denny Heck of Olympia and others in Fife discussing how best to help young people experiencing homelessness in Pierce, King and Thurston counties.

The secretary, seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party, emphasized support for programs in Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia such as the Tacoma Housing Authority’s participation in HUD’s Moving to Work program. The program seeks to increase housing options for low-income households, among other goals.

He also commended Pierce and King counties for their use of money from HUD’s rapid re-housing program that aims to quickly house people who become homeless. The department’s website shows Pierce County got a $1.22 million grant from the program in 2009.

“These are innovative approaches,” Castro said in an interview with The News Tribune. “They’re approaches that are best practices for other communities, and my hope is that the residents of this community will continue to support their efforts because oftentimes we know what works ... but the resources are a big challenge.”

Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, was widely reported to be on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s short list for vice president, but Clinton picked U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.

Also on Monday’s panel were Tess Colby of Pierce County Community Connections; Michael Mirra, director of Tacoma Housing Authority; Mark Putnam, director of All Home King County; and Scott Hanauer, CEO of Community Youth Services in Olympia.

The number of homeless students in Washington has increased over the past decade, according to a tally from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

There were about 35,500 homeless students in 2015 compared with 18,760 in 2008, when the superintendent’s office began counting. The office does caution that some of the spike might come from more accurate data in recent years.

State lawmakers this year put $2 million toward in-school support, housing and transportation for homeless students to supplement the $950,000 the federal government provides to help Washington students experiencing homelessness. The Legislature earmarked another $13 million to aid other homeless programs.