Vancouver City Council voted unanimously on Monday to contract with Living Hope Church to operate the city’s second Safe Stay community.
Brian Norris, associate pastor of Living Hope, said the organization has built relationships with the homeless population which will be an asset to the church while running the Safe Stay Community.
“They know where we come from; we know where they are (and) what their struggles are,” he said. “We want to see the best in people and we want them to see the best in themselves.”
The additional initiative from city staff came shortly after setting up its first site at 11400 NE 51st Circle, which operated for more than a month. Residents of the cul-de-sac in Vancouver’s North Image neighborhood have achieved many goals, said Jamie Spinelli, Vancouver Homeless Intervention Coordinator.
Three residents got jobs while others decided to seek treatment. A person has found his family; several residents have obtained their driver’s license; and some received essential medical care.
Outsiders Inn, a Vancouver-based nonprofit, operates the city’s first Safe Stay community. Adam Kravitz, executive director of Outsiders Inn, said community residents have already achieved milestones after more than a month of operation.
“Most of the time, success comes from people stabilizing,” he said.
Outsiders Inn is working on some issues, such as maintaining a continuous flow of essential supplies, including paper products, garbage bags and cooking utensils, Kravitz said. Some challenges require patience as the pieces fall into place, such as waiting for WiFi to be installed, he added. The organization’s staff shares their acquired knowledge and other general advice with Living Hope Church to ease their transition.
“We’re working very closely with them (to) help them get off the ground as smooth and easy as possible,” Kravitz said.
Spinelli said the added location will operate around the clock, connect residents to outside resources and provide peer support, just like the first site.
Living Hope Church operated a relief site early in the COVID-19 pandemic and operates the county’s only walk-in severe weather shelter. Volunteers also provide meals, a food and clothing bank, mobile sanitation facilities and other outreach services on a weekly basis.
Mayor Pro Tem Ty Stober said the community may question the role of a religious organization in running a municipal program and stressed that the church will abide by the Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity Act. employment opportunities, which is described in the contract.
The city will pay Living Hope Church $552,212 per year to operate the site. Location and shelter options have not been determined.
Vancouver’s first Safe Stay community was included in its 2021-2022 budget, and additional communities will be funded with the first supplementary budget in 2022. The proposed second site and additional support sites may be funded through the Fund for the affordable housing, a sales tax on affordable housing. , and community development grants.
In the same motion, council members approved an updated administrative plan for the Affordable Housing Fund. The proposed changes allocate funds to meet changing community needs, such as the growing demand for temporary shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Affordable Housing Fund initially allocated $300,000 per year for temporary shelters. The proposed update increased the amount to $1.66 million per year, which would support Safe Stay Community operations and the creation of additional sites.
The increase comes as the $3.96 million allocation for housing production and preservation has been reduced to $2.6 million, said Samantha Whitley, community development manager. City staff found that their goals had been met and that more investment was needed to help people in need find shelter.
“We’re nimble in responding (and) to the needs of our community, and this is a great way to do that,” Councilor Bart Hansen said.