'They saved my life': Mom heartbroken homeless program that helped her family is disbanded

FOX 13 News spoke with a couple who say they are heartbroken after hearing about the dissolution of the Snohomish County Sheriffs Office homeless outreach unit, because they say this program saved their lives.

Starting this month, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office says it is forced to cut back resources to several specialty departments to make up for staffing shortages.

Officials with the department say 30 deputies have already quit or retired so far this year. In comparison, the average number of deputies who leave per year is 20.

Because of staff shortages, and dangers to deputies, the sheriff’s says he is cutting resources from the K9 unit, the office's Directed Patrols and the Office of Neighborhoods.

The Office of Neighborhoods unit puts deputes together with social workers to provide resources, and help to people experiencing homelessness.

In 2021, the team made contact with 1027 new clients, scheduled 333 people for Substance Use Disorder inpatient treatment, and secured housing for 177 people, according to numbers from the Sheriff’s Office.

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"They saved my life. They saved a bunch of our friends’ lives," said Krystal Fitzwater.

Fitzwater says she is heartbroken to hear about the changes coming to the county.

She lives in Granite Falls with her fiancé and their six-month-old son, Karson.

However, not too long ago both Fitzwater and her fiancé say they lived on the streets, struggling with addiction.

"Sleeping in abandoned cars, going to jail for stealing cars, and breaking into businesses," said Fitzwater’s fiancé Jeff Rawson.

Both Rawson and Fitzwater say if it was not for Snohomish County’s homeless outreach programs, they may still be on the streets, or worse.

"So many people need this program, it’s just, the amount of lives that could possibly be lost without this," said Fitzwater.

They both hope changes happen, so the sheriff’s office can being operating the Office of Neighborhoods unit again.

Wednesday evening from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney, as well as several council members are hosting a public safety town hall in Marysville at the Opera House.