Thursday, March 23, 2023
March 23, 2023

Linkedin Pinterest

Lincoln Place gives chronically homeless a home

Newly built complex to soon house 30 tenants

By , Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
4 Photos
Amy Reynolds of Share, left, and Steve Towell of the Vancouver Housing Authority provide a tour of Lincoln Place, a 30-unit apartment complex in downtown Vancouver for the chronically homeless.
Amy Reynolds of Share, left, and Steve Towell of the Vancouver Housing Authority provide a tour of Lincoln Place, a 30-unit apartment complex in downtown Vancouver for the chronically homeless. (Ariane Kunze/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

In the entrance of Lincoln Place, there is a wall of photographs showcasing the history of the Vancouver Housing Authority. Among them are photos of the McLoughlin Heights homes built during World War II, the former housing authority office in Fruit Valley and the Old Blair Prune Dryer, near where Plum Meadows apartments are now.

Lincoln Place marks another significant notch in VHA’s timeline: The completion of Vancouver’s first housing-first complex. Housing-first, or “wet” housing means people don’t have to be substance-free to live in the complex.

The $6 million building at 1351 W. Lincoln Ave. will soon house 30 of the chronically homeless who are most at risk of dying on the streets. Last week, Share finished identifying all 30 tenants who will live in single-occupancy studio apartments, and staff have moved into on-site offices.

Over three years, the nonprofit serving the homeless completed more than 100 Vulnerability Assessment Tests to determine who would most benefit from being indoors, said Amy Reynolds, deputy director of Share. Staff have been going out to find these soon-to-be tenants and help them complete lease agreements, she said.

Not everyone who was invited to live at Lincoln Place said “yes,'”or maybe they only said “yes'” after some coaxing, she said.

Funding for Lincoln Place

Low-income Housing Tax Credits: $4,145,840

Loan from the Vancouver Housing Authority: $1,248,782

From Clark County: $370,000

From the city of Vancouver: $200,000

Vancouver Affordable Housing equity: $100,000

Some of the people moving in have been homeless for a decade or longer. Some haven’t been successful in the past with other types of assisted housing.

In traditional transitional housing, the goal is to stabilize people and get them the skills and training needed to move out on their own. At Lincoln Place, Share hopes all of the people that move in stay there, possibly for the rest of their lives.

“For us, success doesn’t necessarily mean people leave,” Reynolds said.

Maybe that success for an alcoholic, for instance, is much more modest. They progress from drinking 24 cans of beer a day to 12 cans. Or, perhaps it means not getting arrested as much or spending less time in emergency rooms. In theory, it would result in cost savings to taxpayers.

The idea is that stable housing needs to come first, before the problems that go along with chronic homelessness can be addressed. And those problems might never be fully solved.

Tenants will be able to tell on-site staff with Share and Community Services Northwest about their problems without fear of getting kicked out, Reynolds said.

Most of the incoming tenants are men. Some have mental and physical health issues and abuse substances.

To keep people inside, rather than revert back to the streets, Reynolds hopes to hire an activities coordinator to keep people busy. Each floor of the three-floor building has meeting rooms, where residents can hang out, have meetings or do trainings. The floors are decorated with art, some pieces commissioned and others donated by local artists.

Ahead of schedule

To build Lincoln Place, Share and the Vancouver Housing Authority looked toward Bud Clark Commons in Portland and Seattle’s Downtown Emergency Service Center. They learned, for instance, that windows should not be able to open. (One resident had a tendency to throw televisions out the window.) So, the windows at Lincoln Place have a small vent to let in fresh air, but don’t slide open.

Units are accessed using key fobs, which should be easier to replace than lost keys, said Steve Towell, spokesman for VHA. There are drains in the floors, sprinklers in every room and bedbug-resistant beds. In case residents want to bring in their own furniture, there is a decontamination room near the entrance to Lincoln Place that heats up high enough to zap any bugs. Throughout the building — but not inside any of the units — there are 30 security cameras.

Standard rooms are 331 square feet with kitchens and bathrooms. Units built for people with disabilities are 462 square feet. Tenants will pay 30 percent of their income to live at Lincoln Place, which will be $0 in some cases.

Units will be checked monthly to see how people are progressing with their basic life skills.

Although residents won’t be required to use services, they will have plenty of encouragement to do so. Reynolds said Share has learned from its experience in housing the homeless at scattered sites around Clark County, including as far east as Washougal, that people do better when they live closer to the services they need. Share offers a host of programs, including free meals at Share House, which is next door to Lincoln Place.

It’s still undecided how a plot of land next to the building, behind the locked bike storage, will be used. It could be a community garden or maybe a day shelter.

It’ll be a couple of more weeks until residents can move in, but everything’s still ahead of schedule. Previously, the Vancouver Housing Authority believed the building wouldn’t be completed until spring.

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith