By SHERIFF MARK BROWN
There’s been a lot of media attention focused on the future of Ryan’s House. As the elected law enforcement official in Island County, I feel it is my duty to comment on matters involving public safety.
It is my opinion that we should not have a “drop-in youth center” for 12- to 18-year-old children at the same location as an “emergency transitional housing facility” for young adults, ages 18 to 24.
I’ve always supported, and will continue to support, both of these programs in a structured setting, separate and apart from each other. In dealing with two potentially vulnerable populations, one being juveniles and one being adult, the structure needed to individually monitor each can be overwhelming, taking into consideration the need to provide mental health and/or chemical dependency care to those in crisis.
My opinion is not meant to detract from the effort of the wonderful volunteers who have stepped up at Ryan’s House to help those who are disadvantaged; rather, it is to ask that Ryan’s House concentrate efforts on serving either the young adult or juvenile population, not both in the same location.
The unfortunate reality is that the co-mingling of these two legally different populations, without proper structure, creates potential for sexual and/or physical abuse between an adult and a minor.
Lack of “risk-free” structure was one reason why Island County Human Services didn’t grant Ryan’s House money for “housing assistance” in 2017. This was addressed in a letter sent to “Ryan’s House for Youth” on Dec. 19, 2016, from the Island County Housing Advisory Board.
Let’s continue to work together to resolve issues in a way that mitigates risk and at the same time helps those in need.