Funds for Caswell Brown village well spent, Jefferson officials say

Commissioner: ‘Transformational and not enough at the same time’

PORT TOWNSEND — Pandemic relief dollars used to help start the Caswell Brown Village in Port Townsend were well spent, Jefferson County officials said, helping the county provide shelter to up to 50 unhoused people.

A contract from the state Department of Commerce for pandemic assistance officially closed in December, and on Monday county commissioners conducted a hearing to review how the funds were administered, part of the grant’s requirements.

Commissioners and others who worked on the project said they felt the program was a success and helped to address the county’s homelessness issue.

“This is a great success story,” said Amanda Christofferson, the county’s grants administrator.

Jefferson County received funding from the state in 2021 to assist low- to middle-income people stay in their homes during the pandemic, but the program wasn’t widely used in the first year, Christofferson said.

The county spent $19,000 on subsistence payments, helping people with things such as rent, bills and mortgage payments.

“In early 2022, it was ID’d that there were some more systemic issues with people who were unhoused and needing to be in a safe space,” Christofferson said, referring to the homeless encampment that was formed at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds as designated as a temporary emergency COVID-19 shelter.

In August 2022, Jefferson County reallocated more than $196,000 to address the need for homeless shelters and helped to fund the construction of more than 40 tiny homes at the Caswell Brown site on Mill Road. Last year, the county received another $100,000 for ongoing homeless support services.

Of the $321,548 the county received, $11,000 was spent on general administration, $19,000 on subsistence payments and $291,393 on homeless support services, according to county documents.

The Caswell Brown Village currently has 50 tiny homes available to unhoused people, and the site’s administrator, Olympic Community Action Programs, is working to build an $8 million permanent homeless shelter at the site.

District 3 Commissioner Greg Brotherton said Caswell Brown’s success would not have been possible without the additional funding.

“It was a real lift, and I’m really proud of the work that we did, adding 50 more houses,” Brotherton said. “It was transformational and not enough at the same time.”

The county has received $5.5 million from the state for the permanent shelter, said District 1 Commissioner Kate Dean, and is seeking additional funding from Congress.

“This is our No. 1 priority in federal appropriations process,” Dean said.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached by email at peter.segall@peninsulanews.us.

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