Gov. Inslee impressed by Yakima’s efforts to combat youth homelessness, gang violence and use solar energy

YAKIMA, Wash. – Gov. Jay Inslee toured Rod’s House in Yakima to learn about the services they offer homeless youth in the valley. He also learned about The Way Program at the Dispute Resolution Center and celebrated the completion of Habitat for Humanity’s solar project.

Gov. Inslee’s first stop on his Yakima tour was Rod’s House. The Director Mark James said the governor had the opportunity to connect with volunteers, mentors and homeless youth.

“It was critical,” James said. “I felt like they had a great connection the governor was able to get some assurance that the different initiatives to improve services in the school system and to provide behavioral health services in emergency shelters that he’s on the right track.”

James shared the types of services they offer to help homeless youth in the center like housing, job training, case management and more.

Gov. Inslee’s administration directed state funds to be used to combat the youth homelessness problem and Rod’s House received some of the funds. The organization will use some of the funds for their new shelter and outreach efforts.

Gov. Inslee then participated in a roundtable discussion at the Dispute Resolution Center about The Way Program. The Yakima Police Chief Matt Murray, Yakima County Prosecutor Joe Brusic and members of The Way Program all shared some of the work they’ve done to combat gang violence in the city and county.

Police identify youth most likely to be involved in a gang shooting or most likely to become a victim of it and have counselors get in contact with these people. These counselors are ex-gang members who share their experience and tell the youth how they can leave a life of crime and turn over a new leaf.

Brusic said during the discussion that this program has helped lead to convictions of two gang members because a participant in the program chose to testify against his fellow gang members.

According to The Way Program Director Sarah Augustine, 65% percent of the participants decreased their contact with law enforcement from 2020 to 2021.

Gov. Inslee said he was surprised to see how much law enforcement supported outside organizations that could keep people away from jail and said he wants to help expand The Way and programs like it across the state.

“With some state financing we would like to grow that so we can have more places they said it’s been so successful here they would like to have more peer counselors,” Gov. Inslee said. “It’s based on a peer to peer [connection] so young people that have been there, they might have been incarcerated, been in a gang.”

The governor’s last stop on his tour was Habitat for Humanity. The organization recently finished a solar project. With support from Spark Northwest, Habitat for Humanity installed a 120kW solar installation at their store on Mead Avenue.

Gov. Inslee said the organization is a leader in clean energy usage which could help combat climate change.

According to Gov. Inslee climate change has really been affecting the agricultural community in the valley and leaders like HFH can help.

“I started with the agriculture community who are being threatened by climate change and I finished here at a Habitat for Humanity that’s using solar power that could help beat climate change so I’ve seen both the threat and the possible solution,” Gov. Inslee said.

He added he supports other solar projects that are in the works across the valley because they could help fill the energy needs in our state.

Overall Gov. Inslee said he was very impressed with the work being down across Yakima.

“We got four great things going for it, we want to use these ideas statewide,” he said.

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Article Source: Fox 11