BREMERTON — The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners recently approved a crisis response to homelessness.
The response aims to make homelessness a rare, brief and one-time occurrence in Kitsap County and seeks to ensure that affordable housing is accessible to all residents who need it. The program partners with many social service providers and affordable housing developers.
Kirsten Jewell, Housing and Homelessness Division coordinator for the county, gave a presentation about the plan last week at a Bremerton City Council meeting.
“There is just not enough places for everyone to live,” Jewell said. “Great demand for small supply equates to an increase in rent.”
A big emphasis of the plan is to identify the most vulnerable people. Other proposed plans include adding 120 shelter beds throughout the county, adding 15 respite care shelter beds for people with medical needs and adding 60-80 permanent supportive housing units for people with long-term behavioral health and physical health challenges to stable housing.
The added beds should help those already homeless. Kitsap Rescue Mission is one of a few homeless shelters in Bremerton. Sonny Zubia, a Bremerton resident, became homeless last year and has been going to the shelter ever since.
“Being homeless isn’t just being homeless; it’s being ignored and talked bad about. We have nothing to look forward to. The word ‘no’ has become a big part of our life,” he said. “I’ve never slept here before because there’s not enough beds. I have to hide to sleep. Being in Bremerton is the toughest I’ve ever seen.”
According to the 2018 Point In Time Homeless Count, there are estimated to be more than 450 people living on the streets, in vehicles, in the woods, in shelters and in transitional housing throughout the county.
For Zubia, having a place to go would be a big help.
“Being homeless in Bremerton is very, very tough because it is illegal,” Zubia said. “We can’t be outside because it’s loitering. Everywhere we are is bad because we are not working and don’t have a home. It’s a hard life.”