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Clallam’s Affordable Housing Solutions: Lessons for Other Communities

Policy and Advocacy
Clallam’s Affordable Housing Solutions: Lessons for Other Communities

Clallam’s Affordable Housing Solutions: Lessons for Other Communities

Housing Crisis in Clallam County: A Community Challenge Turned Opportunity

As a resident of Clallam County, I’ve witnessed firsthand the pressing affordable housing crisis that has impacted our community. It’s a challenge that hits close to home, affecting individuals and families from all walks of life. But amidst the struggle, I’ve also seen the remarkable resilience and collaborative spirit of our community rise to the occasion.

The statistics are sobering – in Clallam and Jefferson Counties, a significant portion of the population is living in poverty or paycheck-to-paycheck, struggling to make ends meet. These “ALICE” (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) households earn above the federal poverty line but less than the basic cost of living. They’re the hardworking folks who often fall through the cracks, unable to access public assistance despite their very real financial hardships.

But the United Way of Clallam County has made it their mission to tackle this crisis head-on. They understand the crucial role that safe and affordable housing plays in breaking the cycle of poverty and ensuring the long-term well-being of our community. And they’re not doing it alone – through collaborative efforts with a diverse array of partners, they’re spearheading innovative solutions that could serve as a model for communities across the country.

Clallam’s Collaborative Approach to Housing Solutions

One of the cornerstone initiatives in Clallam County’s affordable housing strategy is the Clallam County Homelessness Task Force (HTF). Established back in 2005, this advisory committee brings together a range of stakeholders – from United Way representatives to nonprofit leaders and government officials – to improve services for those facing housing insecurity or homelessness.

“The HTF believes that decent housing is a basic human right for everyone,” shares Christy Smith, the CEO of United Way of Clallam County. “And we’re resolved to end homelessness in Clallam County, no matter the challenge.”

The task force holds regular quarterly meetings to coordinate efforts, share resources, and make strategic funding decisions that support the on-the-ground work of local nonprofits. It’s a collaborative model that fosters innovation, maximizes impact, and ensures that no one falls through the cracks.

But the county’s housing solutions don’t stop there. In March 2022, the Clallam County Board of Commissioners established the Housing Solutions Committee to further promote housing-focused initiatives. Christy Smith herself was selected as the committee’s first chair, underscoring United Way’s central role in driving these critical efforts.

“We knew that addressing the affordable housing crisis would require a multi-faceted, community-wide approach,” Christy explains. “That’s why we’ve been intentional about building diverse partnerships and bringing together experts from various sectors.”

One such collaborative effort is the Sequim Health and Housing Collaborative (SHHC), formed in response to a request by the City of Sequim back in 2018. This unique outreach network brings together nine organizations to promote community health and offer pathways to housing, taking a synergistic and unified approach.

“The SHHC is tackling everything from sheltering and behavioral health to substance use disorder and family support services,” Christy tells me. “By aligning our efforts and resources, we’re able to make a more holistic and sustainable impact.”

Investing in Solutions: United Way’s Impact Funding

Of course, none of these collaborative initiatives would be possible without the necessary funding and resources. And that’s where United Way of Clallam County has truly stepped up to the plate.

In January 2023, the organization announced a remarkable $300,000 in impact funding, with a sizable portion earmarked for organizations dedicated to creating safe and affordable housing solutions. This “trust-based philanthropy” model empowers local nonprofits to use the funds in the way they know will have the greatest positive impact on the community.

“We believe that the organizations working on the ground are the true experts when it comes to addressing the unique needs of our community,” says Mary Beth Gregory, United Way’s Community Impact Director. “That’s why we’re intentionally shifting the balance of power, trusting these groups to use the funding in the most impactful way.”

One of the housing-focused recipients of this impact funding is Sarges’ Veteran Support, an organization providing housing services for homeless and formerly homeless veterans. Another is Habitat for Humanity, which is committed to building simple, affordable homes and helping local families permanently escape poverty.

“The $50,000 we received from United Way will go a long way in expanding our work and reaching even more families in need,” shares the Habitat for Humanity representative. “It’s the kind of transformative support that can truly change lives.”

Lessons for Other Communities: Collaboration, Innovation, and Collective Impact

As I’ve learned more about Clallam County’s affordable housing initiatives, I can’t help but be inspired by the lessons that other communities can take away. The key, it seems, lies in fostering a collaborative, innovative, and collective approach to addressing this complex challenge.

The Homelessness Assistance and Coordination Center (HACC), a national organization dedicated to affordable housing solutions, echoes this sentiment. “Clallam County has shown that by bringing together diverse stakeholders, leveraging local expertise, and empowering community-based organizations, you can make real, sustainable progress in tackling the affordable housing crisis,” says the HACC spokesperson.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Clallam’s approach is the way they’ve fostered a genuine spirit of collaboration. Rather than working in silos, the various organizations and initiatives are seamlessly integrated, sharing resources, aligning strategies, and amplifying their collective impact.

“It’s not about one group or one solution – it’s about the community coming together to address this challenge holistically,” Christy Smith emphasizes. “And that collaborative mindset has been the key to our success.”

Another critical factor is Clallam’s commitment to innovation and adaptability. Rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all solution, they’ve been willing to experiment, iterate, and continuously refine their approaches based on the evolving needs of the community.

“When it comes to affordable housing, there’s no magic bullet,” Christy admits. “But by staying nimble, pursuing creative ideas, and empowering our partners, we’ve been able to make real progress in addressing this crisis.”

Perhaps most inspiring, though, is the way Clallam County has embraced the power of collective impact. From the Homelessness Task Force to the Housing Solutions Committee and the Sequim Health and Housing Collaborative, these initiatives have brought together a diverse array of stakeholders, aligning their efforts and amplifying their reach.

“It’s about breaking down silos, pooling resources, and leveraging our collective strengths,” Christy explains. “When we work together, we can achieve so much more than any one organization or sector could on its own.”

A Brighter Future for Clallam and Beyond

As I reflect on Clallam County’s journey, I can’t help but feel a sense of hope and optimism. This community has faced a daunting challenge head-on, and through their collaborative, innovative, and collective approach, they’re making meaningful progress.

Of course, the work is far from over. The affordable housing crisis is a complex, multifaceted issue that will require sustained effort and dedication. But the lessons we’ve learned from Clallam’s experience can serve as a blueprint for other communities grappling with similar challenges.

Whether it’s fostering cross-sector partnerships, empowering community-based organizations, or embracing a trust-based philanthropic model, Clallam County has shown us that there are solutions out there. And by learning from their example and adapting it to our own local contexts, we can create a brighter, more equitable future for all.

So, as I look ahead, I’m filled with a renewed sense of optimism and determination. The path forward may not be easy, but with the collaborative spirit and innovative spirit that Clallam County has demonstrated, I know that we can overcome this challenge and build stronger, more inclusive communities for generations to come.

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