Vancouver gets 3 proposals for homeless shelter funds
By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith and Katy Sword, Columbian staff writer
Published: August 21, 2018, 6:02 AM
For the first time, the city of Vancouver has solicited applications to tap its homeless shelter fund, a part of the taxpayer-approved Affordable Housing Fund.
Three proposals totaling $684,377 were submitted in July for $600,000 in available funding. All three projects aim to improve existing shelters, and one could add 12 beds for homeless families.
The Affordable Housing Fund, created in 2016, has already distributed $5.6 million for housing construction, preservation and rental assistance vouchers and services. The fund’s budget allocates 5 percent — approximately $300,000 annually — for shelters. For the first distribution of funds, 2017 and 2018 were combined.
Here are the proposed projects:
Valley Homestead Shelter
Leah Greenwood, Vancouver Housing Authority’s director of property and asset management, said $252,533 in proposed improvements to the Valley Homestead Shelter would include reconfiguring some spaces so there can be three additional shelter rooms, bringing the shelter’s capacity to 62. Currently, the family shelter at 4921 N.E. Hazel Dell Ave. houses 50.
Unlike the housing authority’s rental properties, the two shelters it owns don’t generate any income and depend on grants for large renovations. Over the years, there have been smaller, piecemeal updates to Valley Homestead funded by Community Development Block Grants.
In this case, the housing authority hopes to get enough money for a bigger project by combining the Affordable Housing Fund grant with money from the state Department of Commerce’s Housing Preservation Program.
“This opportunity at the state was great. Being able to address all the needs in a large project would allow us to do a better job and make it last longer,” Greenwood said.
The Department of Commerce will notify agencies whether they received funding by mid-September.
If the housing authority is only awarded money from one fund, Greenwood said the housing authority would prioritize improving accessibility over the building reconfiguration.
Share House, the downtown men’s shelter at 1115 W. 13th St., seeks to update its ventilation and mechanical systems, as well as the restrooms and shower areas used by its 30 residents.
The $180,000 proposal differs from the current remodeling work being done on the ground floor to the kitchen that houses the Hot Meals program and the restrooms that are used by homeless people coming to the shelter for those meals.
That work is being funded by private donors.
The city’s money would be used to deal with deferred maintenance and make improvements to the building, which was built in 1999.
“It’s not that it’s so old, it’s that we’re hard on it and there’s a lot of guys who’ve passed through,” said Amy Reynolds, deputy director of Share. “We need to do some serious maintenance on that building.”
At SafeChoice, the funds, if approved, would improve shelter accessibility and add a playground. SafeChoice is a local domestic violence shelter providing for women and children who could be in danger if they stayed in their previous home. The space can serve 34 individuals at a time. Some families stay for up to two months while they try to get their lives back on track.
“People need time to reestablish,” said Caroline Bartlett, SafeChoice director.
The $251,844 in proposed funds would allow clients to better access the shelter, which does not publicize its address. The kitchen doorway, for example, is too narrow to accommodate a wheelchair. SafeChoice’s shelter also needs new decks and ramps and an improved outdoor space.
The shelter recently had to remove its existing play equipment because it wasn’t commercial grade, so staff is working to find funding for new playground equipment.
Additional funding would not only fix what’s broken, but help create a comfortable space. Bartlett said they consider not only physical safety but emotional safety as well. An outdoor space with room for kids to play will create a healing environment for those managing trauma.
“It’s important families have an outdoor space they feel safe in,” Bartlett said.
SafeChoice is owned by the housing authority, so Bartlett said the improvements and equipment would likely occur eventually without the city’s financial help.
The funding recommendations made by city staff should come before the city council in September for approval, with contracting beginning in October. Once contracts are completed, funds are distributed to applicants.