Officer, social worker helping Marysville homeless get off the streets

MARYSVILLE – Mike Buell has done a lot with the Marysville Police Department over the years.

But nothing has been as rewarding as what he’s doing now.

He is partnered withRochelle Long in the embedded social worker program. They work with homeless people, especially those with drug addictions, and they try to get them into recovery so they can become productive citizens.

In five months, 14 have made it all the way through the program.

At Jon Nehring’s Coffee Klatch Monday, the mayor said 34 have completed detox programs, 21 are in housing and 30 of 63 have made it through in-patient treatment.

He said society has no bigger challenge now than dealing with the homeless, whether it be due to drugs or mental illness. Addiction is behind most crimes locally, he added.

“Just go thirty miles south to see what happens if it’s not kept under control,” Nehring said of the homeless in Seattle. He added that some so-called solutions exacerbate the problem. But the embedded social worker idea gets at the root of the problem and gets them of addiction.

“It gets them out of that lifestyle and into detox programs. We then wrap social services around them,” he said.

Nehring said if addicts fail, they won’t give up on them. But they don’t get too many chances.

“You have to give us something,” he said. “You can’t just consume resources. You can’t do that here.”

If you commit a crime, there is zero tolerance. It doesn’t matter what they’ve been through, if they commit a crime, they are not the victim.

“Compassion ceases,” he said.

Buell said as a patrol officer he was called every name in the book, but in this job it’s rewarding because he can help people all the way through the process and see them succeed.

He said he and Long talk to homeless and set up numerous meetings to see how serious they are about getting help. “Trust is huge,” Long said, adding they look to break down barriers that might keep addicts from succeeding.

They take addicts to the new Diversion Center in Everett to detox. They then become a “taxi driver,” Buell said, taking homeless to various appointments, such as for mental health assessments. They also take them to inpatient treatments and to sober housing and then for follow-ups. When homeless graduate, as a prize they get to go shopping.

“It can be funny to watch them shop,” Buell said, adding they haven’t taken care of themselves in a long time. “They have a hard time doing it on their own. There’s a lot of hand-holding.”

If they relapse, “They start over. We don’t give up on them,” Buell said.

As to how the public can help, Nehring asked folks to call 9-1-1 if they see a problem homeless person causing trouble. Police will get them out of town.

“We don’t want this to be their stomping ground,” he said.

Police Chief Rick Smith said criminals like drug suppliers are driven out of town.

“We go after the bad guys,” he said. “We want to get those chuckleheads out of here.”

If you want to help this problem specifically, the city plans to put something on its website in the next few days so people can donate.

Nehring also continues to ask folks not to give money to panhandlers. Give to social service clubs or churches who help the homeless instead, he said.

There is a need for more housing for the homeless, so he said if any social service groups or churches have facilities like that please come forward.

He asked for help educating the public because there are false statements everywhere. “Respond to social media,” he said. “Educate the community. Be part of the solution.”

Smith said, “Government can’t do everything.” The next step is more community involvement.

Steve and Lynn Reid, who hosted the event, is helping there through their Women at the Well shelter and donations of all types they give homeless in the back of their Whistlestop store on 3rd Street.

Other items discussed:

•The school resource officers are working the other end of the spectrum, trying to keep kids off drugs in the first place.

•The sales tax increase for the new police station-jail will start being collected in January. The bid will go out around February with building starting next summer.

•Officers carry stuffed animals to give to kids in crisis.

•Work on the Highway 529 onramp, offramp won’t start until 2019 so its completion is probably three years away.

•High-speed Community Transit is on the way.

•During peak commute hours the side of I-5 will be used as a lane soon between Everett and Marysville.

•The Manufacturing Industrial Center is getting lots of interest. •Police will look into complaints about people going through stoplights and street signs, along with speeding.

Also, director Jim Ballew talked about parks projects.

•He said telephone poles are being moved in the Sunnyside area to make room for the extension of the Ebey Waterfront Trail to Harborview Trail. It should be done by the end of next year. “We want it to be a trail experience, not a sidewalk experience,” he said of why it will be located away from Sunnyside Boulevard.

•On the east side of the Qwuloolt Estuary, he said the four-acre Olympic View Park is being planned. An area where kayaks can be put in the slough will be built there.

•A stormwater pond that looks like a huge rain garden is planned between the railroad tracks and I-5 west of Ebey Waterfront Park.

•The Bayview Trail to Centennial Trail connection is in the works, with completion next year. Ballew said talks are ongoing with Marysville Getchell High School for parking.

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