Council updated on outside agencies

Plateau Outreach Ministries and the Enumclaw Expo Center made presentations to the City Council last week.

Updates from Plateau Outreach Ministries and the Enumclaw Expo Center were delivered during the most recent gathering of the Enumclaw City Council.

The report by POM Director Britt Nelson traditionally is a mix of good news and bad – good because people in need are receiving help from the nonprofit entity, bad because there remains a need for social services in the city.

One of POM’s missions is to assist people who are having trouble paying their rent or making utility payments. Nelson reported an increase of nearly 20 percent above 2017 levels, attributable to both greater numbers of people in need and higher utility bills. POM partners with other agencies, Nelson reminded, to prevent utilities from being turned off – or, in a worst-case scenario, to get discontinued utilities returned.

The city is supporting POM this year with a $15,000 grant for utility assistance and, Nelson said, about $3,600 was used during the first quarter of the year.

Nelson also told of the “winter shelter” program supported by POM and area churches, a program that matches people in need with a warm place to spend a chilly night.

During the shelter season, which operates Dec. 1 through Feb. 28, the program accounted for 890 “bed nights,” Nelson said. A different church provides space each night, she said, and there are between a dozen and 14 churches involved.

Nelson said 85 percent of the people requesting shelter are local residents. Those in need are “people who live here, grew up here, have family here, became homeless here,” she said.

The smaller percentage who come from out of town, Nelson said, have likely just been released from the hospital or jail, or come to town for a job that simply didn’t work out.

The 2017-18 season was the fifth for the winter shelter program.

Nelson also told the council of housing issues in Enumclaw – specifically, a problem some have finding something that fits their budget.

“There’s definitely a lack of affordable housing,” she said, explaining that the problem is spread all across King County.

To pinpoint the housing crisis, Nelson explained an accepted formula used by social service agencies. If someone works at a minimum-wage job and labors for a full 40-hour week, “you need to find a place to rent for $735 a month,” she said. “That’s not possible here.”

There are subsidized rental units in Enumclaw, Nelson said, but the waiting list can extend two years or more. POM has worked with several people who rose to the top of the priority list, she added, but had to move to another community where housing was available.

EXPO CENTER REVENUES UP

Also stepping before the council was Scott Gray, head of the Enumclaw Expo and Events Association, which is in charge of the Expo Center, its facilities and all that goes on there.

During the first three-plus months of 2018, Gray said, both revenues and expenses have climbed at the Expo Center. The bottom line, he said, is a financial picture that looks 18 percent healthier than a year ago.

On the positive side of the ledger, he said, are increased attendance for the annual Wine and Chocolate Festival, a grant from the Department of Agriculture and increasing revenues from the center’s RV park.

Additionally, Gray said, is a change in King County’s budget process. Instead of being a budgetary “add on” every year, he explained, the King County Fair is now an official line item in the county budget, adding a bit of certainty to ongoing, annual allocations.

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