LWVSJ Observer Corps* summary of San Juan County Board of Health November 2023 meeting.
Staff from the county and the Orcas Senior Center briefed the Board on the Orcas Dementia Friendly Community project that Orcas is undertaking through the Dementia Friendly Communities organization. They have formed a working group of community stakeholders. They are designing a community survey and will use the results to develop a plan of activities and programs to support those with dementia and their caretakers. They will educate the community and reduce stigma. They have resources for caregivers including a Dementia Care Road Map and dementia specific legal kits. There are an estimated 730 residents with some level of dementia in the county. Other islands communities may decide to explore doing similar programs. The county has few memory care options and as the disease progresses many must leave the county to get care. Developing some more options is longer term goal.
The Housing Program coordinator gave a year-end report on housing programs in the county. The 2023 point-in-time count of homeless/marginally was stable at about 140 people, with Lopez having the highest numbers. About 20% were estimated to be youth. The majority are couch surfing, or living in sub-standard shelter, with about 20 living outdoors or in cars. The county provided rental assistance to 29 senior or disabled residents, distributed $45,000 in emergency rental assistance through the family resource centers, and provided a $120k grant to Opal to subsidize low-income housing units.
The Home Fund distributed $2 million for one affordable housing construction project on Orcas and two on Lopez and applied for and received utility hook up grants for San Juan and Lopez and has submitted a grant application for an Orcas project. There are currently five affordable housing projects in active development, three of which have been permitted and should see construction begin in 2024. The Argyle lot project is proceeding, and a lease contract is undergoing legal review before going to the Council for consideration.
In 2024 the County will be working on a new 2025-2029 five-year Homelessness Plan as the current one ends on Dec 31, 2024, and will convene a task force to begin drafting.
In January a working group will be formed to start creating a proposal to create a host home program for youth.
The county will begin collecting the 1/10 of 1% sales tax for affordable housing construction and housing case management services. The county and town will be working to provide feedback as the design and planning of the Argyle Lots projects moves forward.
The Early Learning Program report was postponed to January. The meeting was for November/December. The next meeting will be in January.
*The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization encourages informed participation in government. The Observer Corps attends and takes notes at government meetings to expand public understanding of public policy and decisions. The notes do not necessarily reflect the views of the League or its members.