COVID-19 Funding Recommendations

The Tacoma/Pierce County Coalition to End Homelessness developed some recommendations around the CARES Act funding. You can download a pdf version of the letter, or read the text of the letter below.

May 18, 2020

To:  Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Council, and Pierce County Human Services 

From: Tacoma-Pierce County Coalition to End Homelessness

 Recommendations for strategic uses of CARES Act Relief Fund

 Who We Are:

The Tacoma/Pierce County Coalition to End Homelessness is a loose network of individuals, non-profit agencies, government agencies, and community businesses working together to serve people experiencing homelessness. Our end goal is to help folks establish safe housing as quickly as possible and help them to retain that housing so their homeless episode is short and never repeated. We also work to address many of the factors that drive homelessness. Each week, 50-100 coalition participants meet and more than 400 people are on the Coalition's email distribution list.

 Why This Letter:

At our May 8th meeting, in response to a verbal request for recommendations from Pierce County Director of Human Services Heather Moss, we generated a list of actions/approaches the county could take when distributing CARES Act Relief Fund to assist persons experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. During this meeting, we did not seek consensus on the strategies, but generated a range of options for consideration by the County when making funding decisions using these targeted dollars. 

 Our recommendations, not in a prioritized order, address the following:

  1. New Shelters
  2. Safe Parking Lots
  3. Hygiene Resources
  4. Racial Equity and Homelessness
  5. Behavioral and Physical Health Resources

 We urge you to prioritize strategies that both respond to the immediate COVID-19 crisis and secure sustainable assets for meeting housing/shelter needs beyond the December 2020 CARES Act Relief Fund spending deadline.  Some of the strategies listed below may not fit the criteria for this specific relief program.  We encourage you to revisit these recommendations as you determine the distribution of other allocated funds to meet the needs of vulnerable residents in Pierce County.

 As service providers and housing advocates, we generated these recommendations with strong awareness of current lacks in Pierce County’s response to the dual crises of COVID-19 and homelessness: all homeless shelters are continually full (and congregate shelters are high risk for spread of infection); hygiene options are limited to non-existent, making infection even more likely; communities of color are disproportionately represented among those living homeless; and there are very limited behavioral/physical health resources available, especially in smaller cities and the unincorporated rural areas of the county.

 How to Connect With Us:

We offer these ideas for your consideration now, and as an invitation to a continuing dialogue with us on practical measures to ensure adequate shelter for all in Pierce County. You are welcome to join us at any of our weekly meetings, currently online, from 9-11 a.m. Our meeting agendas, online access information, minutes, and ZOOM recordings are available at

 Thank you for your time and work in caring for our community across Pierce County during this unprecedented time. We look forward to connecting more in the future. For any questions, feel free to email


1. New Shelters - With all shelter options currently full, we need to increase a variety of shelter options across the county: 

2. Safe Car Lots: This idea has percolated for some time among shelter advocates as a promising alternative to current unsafe street parking and “move on” citations for those living homeless in their cars. With the COVID-19 social distancing requirements, providing a secure, managed site for parking cars (overnight and/or for an extended period) offers a safer alternative to congregate shelters, as well as a safe temporary option while seeking more permanent housing.  Coalition participants offered the following specific recommendations:

3. Hygiene Resources: Knowing that few resources exist to meet the hygiene needs of persons living homeless in Pierce County, the Coalition generated a list of basic resource needs, all of which will be ongoing, but some of which could be resourced by the county procuring physical assets that remain available after CARES Act Relief Fund dollars are spent.  Resources include: 

 4. Racial Equity and Homelessness: Given the findings from the 2018 SPARC report that communities of color are disproportionately represented among those living homeless in Pierce County and those at risk of homelessness, and aware of the current national data on disproportionate numbers of persons of color contracting COVID-19, Coalition participants urge the county to make funding decisions supporting the expressed sentiment of communities of color of “nothing about us without us.”  Recommendations include:


 5. Behavioral and Physical Health Resources: Aware of the lacks within Pierce County in responding to the COVID-19 challenges for people living homeless, and the ongoing crisis of behavioral health within the county, Coalition participants identified a wide range of needs that could be met in part with CARES Act Relief Fund monies.  Some recommendations echo strategies described earlier in this document, but here have a specific focus on health needs.