Walsh seeks to eliminate prioritization of “no barrier housing” over sober living shelters

“Sober living clients should be put first in line for our public resources, but often unintentionally, they are put at the back of the line for help.”

Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, is sponsoring an amendment that would eliminate the current prioritization of low barrier homeless shelters over other types of homeless housing, like sober living shelters. This would create a level playing for sober living and low barrier facilities looking to receive grants from the Washington State Department of Commerce.

“To prioritize low barrier and no barrier homeless shelters over sober living homeless shelters creates a perverse incentive. Whereby, the people running the shelters will often seek market share by seeking clients in order to expand their low or no barrier shelters,” said Walsh. “They do this to gain additional resources and greater growth of their operation at the expense of assisting sober living clients. Many times, these are women with children just trying to get back on their feet.”

House Bill 1570 would establish the Washington housing opportunities act. Walsh's amendment to the bill help ensure individuals experiencing homelessness that are not addicts, or are committed to drug or alcohol recovery, are also given the same opportunity for shelter as low-barrier clients.

“Sober living clients should be put first in line for our public resources,” continued Walsh. “But often unintentionally, they are put at the back of the line for help. We've got to fix that.”

Shelters with limited entry requirements are referred to as “low barrier.” This approach offers access to shelters without requiring proof of sobriety, or enrollment or completion of substance abuse treatment. The low barrier homeless services often prioritize shelter for people who are actively using drugs, or abusing alcohol, over those choosing to abstain. Often low barrier services allow people to continue behavior that is illegal, like abusing drugs.

Sober living facilities are alcohol and drug free living environments for individuals attempting to abstain, or who do not have a drug or alcohol addiction. Walsh's amendment would mean sober living shelters would be given the same priority as low-barrier shelters for public dollars.

Read more about amendment 553.

The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn April 23.


Washington State House Republican Communications