5 Questions for Kate Budd: Council for the Homeless
The Council for the Homeless is a non-profit organization with a mission to provide community leadership, compelling advocacy and practical solutions to prevent and end homelessness in Clark County. The Council collaborates with government partners, educators, business leaders, communities of faith and community members to create an effective, efficient and humane response to homelessness.
We sat down with Executive Director Kate Budd to learn more about the situation in Clark County and the role of organizations such as the Council in regional efforts to improve health and wellness.
Can you give us a snapshot of the state of homelessness in Clark County?
The biggest challenge we see is the significant increase in unsheltered individuals in Clark County due to rapidly increasing rental costs. Rent is up as much as 10 percent in the last year alone. This impacts everyone, particularly those who are already stretched thin.
Seniors are especially at risk. We’ve seen a 23 percent increase in the number of seniors that call our Housing Solutions Center. That’s particularly concerning because with age comes chronic health conditions. And the combination of homelessness and chronic health issues can lead to unanticipated challenges. For example, we are working with a number of people with BiPAP or CPAP machines who need a place to plug them in. We’re buying car converters just to make sure they can breathe while they sleep.
One promising development is an increase in assistance for families. We are fortunate to be recipients of the City of Vancouver’s affordable housing fund, which helps people remain stably housed. Through this grant we’re working in partnership with seven other area agencies to provide financial assistance, coaching and case management to stabilize households.
What are some of the specific challenges faced by this population?
It’s important to acknowledge that these individuals are as unique as you and I. However, we do see many with behavioral health, physical health and chronic healthcare challenges. Folks with unmanaged diabetes, for example. In that context housing is a form of healthcare. It’s extraordinarily difficult to eat well when you aren’t stably housed.
Extreme temperatures are a big one too – hot and cold. Health issues are exacerbated when you are outside. In the winter we see people with hypothermia and in the summer there’s severe dehydration. Symptoms come on quickly and can be hard to catch.
In fact, we just held a severe weather summit. The summit looked at how we shelter people as a community during severe weather and explored opportunities for additional partners to get involved in sheltering people during severe weather, through opening a facility, volunteerism and fundraising activities.
What are the Council’s current focus areas or initiatives?
Our big focus right now is updating the Clark County homeless action plan. As Clark County’s planning and coordinating body around homelessness, we’re excited to develop a multi-year plan to address homelessness.
We recently completed a series of community forums and surveys and were pleased to receive significant community input. There’s a lot of interest in this issue. In September we’ll present a draft to the county councilors and share the plan with the public. We look forward to working with local leaders to move the plan forward.
How does the Council partner with organizations in healthcare and other areas?
Our success hinges on our ability to partner. The fact is, the households we work with face complex challenges and barriers. The homeless crisis response system can’t address those challenges alone.
We work with 10 agencies to place people into 40 programs in our homeless crisis response system. We also work with over 20 agencies to make sure their clients are assessed for housing programs. However, we must look beyond getting community members housed to make sure they are stable in that housing. That means connecting them with the resources necessary to meet their needs holistically.
A great example is our collaboration with Molina’s care coordination team. They work with us to connect their members with housing and we help connect our Molina clients with care coordination. Working together we’re helping get these individuals housed and ensuring they have the behavioral and physical health support necessary to stay housed.
The Council for the Homeless has been an active participant in SWACH. What excites you about this collaborative effort?
I’m excited about the potential to be more flexible in our ability to support people with high needs. Traditional health systems sometimes don’t work well for those experiencing homelessness. Arriving on time to a 9 a.m. appointment may not be feasible for someone in the midst of a homelessness crisis. Not having reliable transportation, being turned away if ten minutes late or not having the money for deductibles are often barriers too large to overcome and result in a lack of care. This work is exciting because it aims to transform how our systems engage with those facing homelessness, poverty and other challenges.
SWACH’s focus on developing an equity, diversity and inclusion framework is also exciting. Organizations like mine are making progress but as a community we have a long way to go when it comes to equity. SWACH’s prioritization of equity is an important next step because it helps expand that focus among the various partners and stakeholders.
I’m also pleased with SWACH’s recognition of housing as a social determinant and as a form of healthcare. I’m hopeful about the potential for investment in programs and projects that increase our capacity to provide housing, as well as integration with healthcare systems.
To learn more and connect with the Council, please visit www.councilforthehomeless.org