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3. Outreach and Enforcement

I have spoken with police officers, social workers, and mayors of Snohomish County cities using the Embedded Social Worker model to address criminal behavior primarily due to addiction.  Not only does it appear to help stop the revolving doors of incarceration, a county-wide approach helps to prevent people moving from camp to camp or city to city, to avoid intervention.

I recently discussed the program with Marysville Mayor John Nehring, who wrote a recent update on their experience, and he gave me some great insight into how they collaborate county-wide.  You can also read and listen to him speak about it here.

See how Arlington, Monroe, Everett, Marysville, Lynnwood, and Mt. Vernon are all working very differently than cities in Thurston County.


Most outreach doesn't need to be done by social workers who are actually embedded with law enforcement, but some does. I spent 10 years working in psychiatric social work and substance abuse treatment. Five of those years were as Thurston County's Homeless Outreach Case Manager. This was not ivory tower philosophical debate on policy or the proper use of acronyms. It was hands-on, driving guys with lice in my car to help win a VA or Social Security disability claim, or get a haircut, or get into treatment, or get ID by going to 4 different offices, or to beg a landlord to give them a shot at housing. I was never directly partnered with police, but they sometimes called me to help people who needed it.

I think we should start by simply asking local law enforcement to patrol known area encampments. The purpose is not to sweep or harass, but to begin to know who is where, build rapport, and move encampments away from their off-the-grid "Lord Of The Flies" mentality. We should then progress to a complete ban on encampments and day camping, while providing a variety of shelter and transitional housing options as the alternative.

Ross For Olympia
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