County Councilmember Nehring ordinance would require drug treatment for tenants of county housing

Related to the news that Snohomish County plans to buy a Highway 99 motel in Edmonds to provide transitional housing for those experiencing homelessness, County Councilmember Nate Nehring has introduced an ordinance requiring that tenants who have been diagnosed with substance use disorder participate in a drug treatment program.

Nehring has requested that the county council delay the vote on hotel purchases until the drug treatment ordinance can be considered.

The county has proposed buying both the America’s Best Value Inn and the Days Inn with federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) pandemic recovery money. The America’s Best Value Inn would be purchased for $9.1 million and the Days Inn for $10.8 million.

The facilities are described as bridge housing, designed to provide immediate shelter in a stable environment, with 24/7 support services. It is considered a first step toward permanent housing and comes with medical and mental health help, job services and other immediate needs.

Focusing on addiction recovery for those housed in county-owned shelters is critical to resolving one of the root causes of homelessness, Nehring said. According to data published in the National Institutes of Health Library of Medicine, over one-third of individuals without homes also suffer from an addiction, he added.

“To address the root causes of homelessness, we must take a compassionate approach to help those struggling get back on their feet,” Nehring said. “Warehousing individuals struggling with addiction in hotels just to get them off the street is not solving the underlying causes of their situation and is not compassionate. My ordinance would require that these individuals participate in a treatment program.”

If adopted, the ordinance would specifically address residents of county-owned hotels that have been converted to bridge or permanent supportive housing facilities and would only apply to individuals with a substance use disorder. The county council is scheduled to vote on the purchase of both the America’s Best Value Inn in Edmonds and the Days Inn in Everett at their Aug. 17 meeting, which starts at 9 a.m.

Assuming approval by the county council, the purchase of America’s Best Value Inn will mark the first time this type of housing will be available in South Snohomish County.

 

 

 

  1. While drug treatment for people with addiction who are experiencing homelessness is important, research has shown that a housing first approach works well. When a person with difficulties has a stable place to sleep and keep their things, they are more prepared to benefit from treatment, and more likely to accept further help. Therefore I do not think requiring drug treatment first is realistic, especially since it is uncertain that treatment is actually available. I believe getting people into stable housing first is the right approach.
    In addition, as the requirement of drug treatment is contentious, would it not make sense to buy the properties first and agree on the exact parameters of use later?

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