Members of the Yelm City Council discussed adding a new homelessness committee and new city reader board during a study session on Tuesday, March 7.
Councilmember Ashley Brooks said the Yelm Homelessness Task Force met in December of 2022 and decided it served its purpose at that time.
Now that the city has a better understanding of homelessness in Yelm, they have considered adding a committee focused on the topic.
“The difference between the task force and the proposed committee is that the task force served its purpose,” Brooks said. “Its purpose was to identify what homelessness looks like in Yelm and what we’re currently doing to fix it.”
The potential committee would include five members with a term length of four years. It would include representation from the Yelm City Council, a local specialist in addiction and mental health issues, a local representative from a nonprofit that provides services for the homeless, a representative from a local organization that creates or sustains low income housing, and a Yelm-area resident.
Members would be appointed by the Yelm City Council and Mayor Joe DePinto.
“Homeless numbers are growing and we know more work lies ahead to ensure residents get the best chance of being successful in retaining a roof over their head,” Brooks said.
The committee would identify areas where the city can use its resources to coordinate or support services for the population, while educating people on the topic and what is offered for those experiencing homelessness through local organizations, Brooks said.
“The organizations operating in Yelm right now are doing fantastic,” Brooks said. “I’m not saying they need just financial support, they want support and acknowledgement.”
Councilmember James Blair said the committee would do what the city hasn’t.
“The city is no good at it, and every other city in the state, country, proved that if they’re the ones spearheading homelessness, it’s a total failure,” Blair said. “The point is for them to be able to come here and say this is what we’re doing, this is what we want to do, and this is what we need to do. That’s it.”
The council will vote to approve the committee at a later meeting.
DePinto said the council will also vote to decide if they will spend $20,000 on the allocated and budgeted reader board.
Councilmember Brian Hess believes it’s important to provide information to the community about different events that happen in Yelm.
“I deactivated my Facebook and I have no idea of what’s going on within the city. What I ask is that the purpose of the reader board is to inform our residents on what their tax dollars are going toward and what’s happening in their community,” Hess said. “Maybe we need to try what other communities do. A newsletter that comes out once a month. A link on the reader board could be posted to redirect you to the newsletter.”
Blair supported the idea of providing a city newsletter in addition to the reader board.
“Ninety-nine percent of our town isn’t going on the city’s email or the city’s website. I think we should get back to a newsletter, where you have a paper form that’s printed out and sent with water bills that are sent out,” Blair said. “You could have a digital form where people subscribe to their email and have your reader board. Do all three. The 25 grand is going to pay for all of it for at least a couple years.”
DePinto said the council will vote on the items at a later meeting.
“If the council wants to vote it down, they can do so,” he said.
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