City of Puyallup uses unconventional method to address homelessness

PUYALLUP - The city of Puyallup is fighting homelessness in an unconventional way.

Puyallup is now spending $65,000 to transport and provide services to homeless people throughout the year at a Tacoma shelter.

Adam Nestegard is pushing one year living on the streets of Puyallup.

“I am trying to figure out my life out again, you know?” Nestegard said.

Nestegard says the emotional hardships are worse than the physical.

“How you look in front of your peers in town, this is a town I grew up in. I have roots here,” Nestegard said.

He got in trouble with the law and Nestegard admits that partially led to him becoming homeless. But that is the past.

“I am just trying to find happiness right now, happiness is the key,” Nestegard said.

Puyallup city leaders are hoping people like Nestegard will take the helping hand they are offering through a new pilot program. But it would mean leaving Puyallup to go to Tacoma.

“Can’t just take anything. I’ve done that before and became more unhappy and more pissed off about my situation,” Nestegard said.

The city will be paying $65,000 to team up with the Salvation Army in Tacoma to house and service up to 14 homeless people at a time throughout the year.

Puyallup police officers will be able to provide the Tacoma shelter as an option.

If it’s a good fit, people can stay for months to get a new start on life. The agreement will guarantee 14 beds as well as wrap-around services.

Puyallup Mayor John Palmer emphasized that the program is not about relocating the city’s homeless population to Tacoma.

“This is about providing them the opportunity out of homelessness to provide services to get well, to get back on their feet."

Right now, the city has no overnight homeless shelters. That is why Puyallup leaders say they are working with the Tacoma shelter.

But still, critics say many people living on the streets in Puyallup will be reluctant to leave.

Many of the homeless people Q13 News spoke with on Monday said they lived in tents along the Puyallup River. But we also met a guy by the name of Perry who lives by himself in a heavily wooded area.

He says he will never leave the area.

“I would rather be out here,” Perry said.

He took pride in the fact that he’s built a shack with brush and cardboard.

“It`s more peaceful here, more peaceful,” Perry said.

Although Perry and Nestegard are not jumping at the chance for a bed at the Tacoma shelter, Scott Bellows says he approves of the city`s way of thinking outside of the box.

“It's only a little bit of a way, come on now it`s better than living in a tent. Hello, it`s being offered to you. Why wouldn`t you take it?” Bellows said.

Bellows has been homeless for 5 years, but he says he's finally at the turning point. However, he says he wouldn`t be here without a lot of help.

Salvation Army says four people have entered the program.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards says she did not know about Puyallup's pilot program until recently.

Although she understands the need for it, she says the county as a whole needs to do a better job to provide wrap-around services in the hometown of where the people are from.

She says Tacoma is committed to working with other cities to make a better network of services.