PORT ORCHARD — A new county employee hired to help connect people who are homeless and living away to community resources is already hard at work at Veterans Park and other encampments on county property.
Jarrod Moran is Kitsap County’s HEART Coordinator. HEART stands for Homeless Encampment Action Response and Transitions.
The job takes him all over the county, though a lot of work recently has been tending to Veteran’s Park encampments.
After:Cleanup effort targets litter at Veterans Memorial Park homeless encampments
He said what attracted him to this job was the clientele served.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been passionate about helping homeless people,” Moran said. “Helping vulnerable people in general is part of who I am.”
Moran started her new job on March 28. Previously, he worked as an investigator and supervisor in adult protective services, ensuring vulnerable adults were taken care of. Prior to that, he worked as a rehabilitation counselor for the state’s violent sexual predators.
He said it’s important to see people as people. Moran is also a veteran, having served in the Navy for eight years.
Kirsten Jewell, housing and homelessness division manager for Kitsap County, said Moran stood out because of her experience with vulnerable populations, as well as her administrative knowledge.
There is no “typical” day at work for Moran, he said. He could do anything from creating new forms or maps to visiting encampments for outreach. He said an important part of his job is to understand the policy and legal aspects behind what the HEART coordinator does. Jewell said the encampment policy came from a conglomeration of policies from many different jurisdictions, using them as examples to create a policy suitable for Kitsap.
“This is really our first foray into this area of work and we’re doing our best to do it in a way that’s compassionate and balances a bunch of community needs,” Jewell said. “This is a very difficult issue that every community in our state is grappling with right now.”
As for the future, Moran is delighted to help the position grow. He enjoys getting to know new people and says working and coordinating with others, such as public works and the parks department, has gone well.
The HEART coordinator is there to help connect people living away with the resources available to them before asking anyone to move. Right now, Moran’s working on a survey of encampments around the county.
“Leading with compassion” is their motto, Jewell said.
“The compassionate part is super important to me,” Moran said. “We will learn from successes and failures, and I can’t wait to see how it develops.”
Related:Kitsap homeless encampments offer a new front for harm reduction efforts
Under the unauthorized camping policy, people living in Veterans Park are supposed to leave by Friday, April 29. The notice was published on April 6.
Another major cleanup will take place, and those remaining in the park will be asked to move. Before someone is asked to move, they are put in touch with all the resources that could be useful to them, whether it is treatment for chemical dependency, a housing program, a refuge or a hotel voucher.
If someone refuses to leave or returns, it will be up to the Parks Department and law enforcement to decide what to do, Jewell said. It can be difficult for people with pets or other obstacles when looking for a place to live, Moran said.
So far, most park residents have been receptive to their upcoming eviction date. The outreach team knows the residents well and they are now starting to feel comfortable around Moran as well, he said. Some are moving in with their families, others are going through treatment programs, and some will participate in a hotel voucher stabilization program so they have a place to live while they figure out where to go next.
Jewell said work on Veteran’s Park began before the HEART coordinator was hired. Now, an intervention plan for each camp is being developed.
“I think at other camps we’ll have some time to figure out what the situation is and what the best response will be,” Jewell said. “There is no easy magic solution to the challenges of people trying to survive in the outdoors.”
Jewell pointed out that more affordable housing is needed in the area and that people without housing will end up living out or in cars.
“It’s not going to solve the problem of the affordable housing crisis,” she said.