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CHEHALIS – It’s becoming more evident that homeless people are taking up residence on local city streets. It’s unconstitutional to remove anyone from public spaces without offering emergency shelter. Currently a nightly shelter run by the Salvation Army next to their offices on Gold Street in Centralia is assisting handfuls of people who need an overnight place to stay. Salvation Army Capts. Steven and Gin Pack say it’s been working well in giving those in need a hot drink and a cot, and getting them connected with local social service agencies. What about a year-round shelter or other solutions for the homeless? 86 people gathered Thursday afternoon in Chehalis to discuss next steps. Lewis County Commissioner Sean Swope says, “We want to make sure that, for instance, when families go to the library, a mother and her kids can get from their car and into the library in a safe manner, protect all of the citizens of Lewis County and help those where we can help.” Lewis County Deputy Director of health and social services is Meja Handlen added, “Our community needs this (shelter) and our community needs to drive this. With inpuit from the entire community we can best make a program that fits us, Lewis County.” Chehalis Mayor Tony Ketchum, council members and staff are actively involved in the discussion. The Mayor shared Thursday, “We need to get a coordinated effort, bring in all agencies that can help. “ Addressing affordable housing for all is why Centralia Mayor Kelly Smith Johnston helped put on, along with Commissioner Swope, a recent Housing Summit. “We need to take care of the folks that don’t have anywhere to go to get onto a path of a stable life”, says the Mayor. Mayor Smith Johnston says we need to address all elements of the housing pipeline. The mayor concedes a solution is multi faceted and wants the city to partner with the county and all of its communities. Lewis County is currently accepting requests for proposals from local organizations that can best contribute to solutions on homelessness and the operation of a proposed permanent nightly shelter. The current shelter operation has been funded through state and federal funds through June.

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