Office of Adult and Family Homelessness

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may 20, 2020

Office of Adult and Family Homelessness

Please forward to sub grantees and other interested parties!

Circling back

The “new normal” must be better than before – we have the responsibility to make it so!

Greetings, and welcome to an overdue edition of the OFAH Newsletter! It’s good to be back, and we have some important updates and information to share in this issue. First, let’s start with Thank You!

The Department of Commerce is grateful for all the critical services that homeless housing providers are delivering as we address the impact of COVID-19 across our state. We hear countless stories of outreach teams, shelter providers, housing case managers, nonprofit leaders, local government staff and others who are developing newer and safer ways to serve people experiencing homelessness. And we join the chorus of advocates who recognize that we need to do better for people who are disproportionally impacted and were already struggling to be seen and supported. The last few weeks have shown a bright spotlight on our homeless crisis response system, and while we’ve been making strides in some areas, the pandemic has exposed both our strengths and vulnerabilities.

The next few months are going to be really tough.

More and more people are facing hard decisions about how to pay rent and bills while buying food. While there are pockets of rent assistance, for some people, it may feel like a whirlwind. A person emailed us: If you spin around long and hard enough at the right time, at the right moment you may be lucky to grab something.

Amidst all of the economic uncertainty, we will experience new impacts of the pandemic on the homeless crisis response system. Where we can do better we will.

The Office of Family and Adult Homelessness is committed to examining our state and federal grant guidelines and allowing maximum flexibility wherever possible. We applied for federal waivers for some of the HOME TBRA requirements, and you can learn more about changes to the state Consolidated Homeless Grant and Performance Measures and the Coordinated Entry Guideline here. We will continue to post updated county isolation and quarantine housing plans here and share best practices as widely as possible. We will also learn to better use technology so we can continue to hear from grantees, stakeholders and the people most impacted by the crisis.

Thank you for everything you are doing to keep people safe, housed and cared for during this crisis. 

Emergency Response Grant for Tribal Governments

In April, Commerce announced $5 million in emergency grants available to the 29 federally recognized Tribes in Washington to bolster their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Examples of grant activities include:

  • Community outreach and education
  • Supplies and equipment need to expand food distribution programs
  • Increasing elder care services
  • Creating quarantine and isolation housing
  • Costs associated with Tribal enterprises that have had to furlough employees

More information about the grant is posted here. To learn more about the federally recognized Tribes in the state of Washington, please see this resource provided by the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs. 

If you have questions about the COVID-19 Emergency Response Grant for Tribal Governments, please contact Emily Burgess at

Ensuring Racial Equity During the COVID-19 Homelessness Response

Group of people

Historic and systemic racism have exacerbated the vulnerability of marginalized populations during the pandemic. The National Alliance to End Homelessness recently provided a webinar on Ensuring Racial During the COVID-19 Homelessness Response. The webinar examined strategies to center race during this crisis:

  • Collecting data that includes race and demographic information is hugely important, since comprehensive data helps us tell the story.
  • Create decision-making structures that are inclusive, because as presenter Pascale Leone stated, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
  • Consider ways to compensate frontline staff fairly, including hazard pay and bonuses. See more on hazard pay in the Did You Know section below.
  • Continue to pursue long-term systems change. Presenters encouraged us to take bold action now.

You can find the full presentation here.

Public Charge Rule Updates and Impact to Immigrants Needing Access to Housing Programs

The Public Charge Rule has been around for many years but recently underwent some changes that may impact immigrants experiencing homelessness or housing instability. It is important to note:

Changes to the Public Charge rule do not affect whether someone is eligible for a housing program, nor do they impact all immigrants. Also, only homeless housing programs in the link below are included at all in a public charge analysis. All other programs are exempt at this time, and we should encourage those who need them to access them.

You can find more information about what the Public Charge Rule is, what non-housing programs were included in the expansion, and what resources you can give to immigrants about these changes here: Understanding Housing Assistance under the Public Charge Rule.

Is it Okay to 'Take Drugs' in a Homeless Program

Some homeless programs may inadvertently be discriminating against individuals with an opioid use disorder.

The best practice treatment for an individual with an opioid use disorder (OUD) is for an individual to take a prescribed medication. Medications that individuals can be prescribed to help treat their OUD include methadone, buprenorphine containing products (such as Suboxone or Subutex) and naltrexone (Vivitrol). Some homeless housing programs may be confused and discriminating against people in their programs who take these medications.

An individual with a substance use disorder is protected under state and federal disability laws. Individuals taking these prescribed medications for OUD are protected from housing discrimination under the FHA, Rehabilitation Act and ADA – same as individuals with other disabilities. You can learn more here.

Despite these federal laws being in place, housing discrimination occurs with some frequency for those with opioid use disorder in the context of recovery residences.

Individuals who live or want to live in residences for individuals in recovery are sometimes excluded strictly on the basis that they are trying to treat their substance use disorder by taking a prescribed medication for the treatment of their OUD. When this happens, this is illegal.

Accordingly, these residences may neither categorically exclude people taking medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder nor insist that these individuals abstain from taking their prescribed medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

Some recovery residences also have policies that make it difficult for individuals taking a medication for the treatment of opioid use disorder to live there. For example, policies may prohibit the storage of methadone or buprenorphine containing products at the residence. This is also illegal.

Such residences must grant a “reasonable accommodation” for individuals taking medications for the treatment opioid use disorder, provided the requested accommodation does not require major financial or administrative commitments that would be considered an “undue burden” to the recovery residence.

Examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • Recovery residences allowing individuals to store their prescribed medications in a lock box in the house and having the individual be personally responsible for it 
  • Recovery residences arranging to have the housing facility keep a client’s prescribed medications in a locked cabinet. Residences, of course, do not have to accept every individual who applies.
  • Recovery residences applicants may still be rejected from housing if they refuse to follow non-discriminatory house rules, such as violating rules prohibiting drinking or illegal drug use.

If you are a recovery residence provider and would like to learn more about how to ensure your site can have policies and procedures to allow individuals with OUD to be able to access recovery housing free from discrimination, technical assistance is available. Free technical assistance is available to all Washington dtate recovery residences from the Washington State Opioid Treatment Authority Jessica Blose.

Please reach out to learn more by contacting Jessica Blose at

Did you know?

Did you know?

Did you know laptops are available for FCS and Recovery Supports service providers?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s Health Care Authority has loaner laptops available for Foundational Community Support and Recovery Supports service providers to ensure delivery of vital services. Please complete an application only if you are unable to obtain a laptop independently and the lack of access to technology prevents you from providing telehealth services to clients. Fill out this online application to submit your request.


Did you know that 'hazard pay' is an allowable expense with your CHG and COVID-19 Emergency Housing Grant?

Hazard pay means additional pay for performing hazardous duties or work that involves extreme hardship. Agencies may be performing duties that involve exponentially greater discomfort and distress right now, especially if personal protective equipment isn’t available, and/or doesn’t entirely mitigate the risk involved in continuing to provide services to vulnerable community members.

Direct service staff supporting people in person may fall into this category. Hazard pay may be supplied in various ways, whether through a bonus or a temporary increase in pay. Agencies have discretion on implementation.

New Online Training Available Now


Visit the OFAH training web page to see the new online training videos:

Topics include:

  • Introduction to Housing First
  • Rapid Rehousing
  • Progressive Engagements for Programs and Systems
  • Landlord Engagement in Rapid Rehousing
  • Working with Survivors of Domestic Violence
  • Introduction to Diversion/Problem Solving



In-Person Trainings Moving to New Virtual Platforms

We are excited to let you know that the Trauma-Informed Services, Mental Health First Aid, Racial Equity and LGBTQ+ Competency trainings will resume later this summer – online. All of the trainers are working to adapt their curricula to a new platform and are excited to make these available for you. This approach will also allow for much more flexibility, as participants won’t need to travel and will have more choice about when they attend.


Other training and conferences


The Balance of State conference in Leavenworth is postponed

We are looking for ways to continue the BoS Coordinated Entry discussion and bring you more training and learning opportunities. Stay tuned for updates.


National Alliance to End Homelessness:
COVID-19 Webinar Series

Alliance staff and other experts will be discussing various tools, guidance, and strategies relating to how providers and homelessness system leaders can respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. View webinar recordings, slides, and other resources below, and register for COVID-19 webinars here. For an extensive list of resources relating to COVID-19 and homelessness, visit the Alliance’s Coronavirus and Homelessness page.



NW Fair Housing Alliance: Service Animals vs. Therapy Animals

Assessing a Person’s Request to Have an Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Housing Act. This webinar will review the 2020 HUD guidance and discuss what is new in the guidance, what remains the same, and HUD's best practices for requesting or verifying a reasonable accommodation request and what types of assistance animals are allowed for disabilities in different settings.


Washington State Health Care Authority - Mental Health Resources

SAMHSA Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance and resources

ACL COVID-19 guidance and resources

VA's Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) webpage

VA's Coronavirus FAQs page

Questions? Contact Us:

Contact Us

Consolidated Homeless Grant & HOME TBRA Grant Manager

Jessica Simon


Emergency Solutions Grant, Systems Demonstration Grant

Julie Montgomery


Consolidated Homeless Grant & HOME TBRA Grant Manager

Kathryn Dodge


Training & Benefits Verification System Coordinator

Linda Terry


Consolidated Homeless Grant & HOME TBRA Grant Manager& Homeless Student Stability Program Manager

Megan Kendig


Consolidated Homeless Grant & HOME TBRA Grant Manager

Sarah Harrison