Two Southwest Washington lawmakers — one Republican, the other a Democrat — are joining forces this legislative session to help the Bridgeview Education and Employment Resource Center become a reality.
The nonprofit is hoping to secure $1.2 million from the state’s capital budget.
The 8,500-square-foot center would be a one-stop resource center for low-income community members and could house services from agencies such as WorkSource, Clark College and the Clark County Food Bank.
Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, called it a “compelling project.”
It’s the type of project, she told The Columbian’s Editorial Board on Friday afternoon, that helps people break out of generational poverty.
Jan Wichert, the executive director of Bridgeview, said it’s often overwhelming for people to find the resources they need. This project, she said, already has more than 25 interested partners, from support groups to credit unions interested in participating. The plans include classrooms, work spaces, a computer lab and teaching kitchen.
It’s taking a fragmented system, Wichert said, and turning it into a one-stop location for families who are seeking help.
“At a minimum, people could find out what resources are available,” Wichert said, adding there will be potential for so more to help families find stability.
Wylie pointed out that the project isn’t technically in Rep. Paul Harris’ legislative district.
That doesn’t matter, Harris said.
“This is a project that doesn’t serve a district; it serves a community,” the Republican said.
The project is planned for Skyline Crest, a 20-acre subsidized housing community in the Vancouver Heights neighborhood. So far, $2.21 million has been raised for the center. The Vancouver Housing Authority committed $1 million, and the project has received support from The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington, as well as Community Development Block Grants from the city and county.
The Washington Legislature committed $750,000 in a previous session.
There’s another pressing reason Wichert is hoping the funding materializes quickly. The Vancouver Housing Authority has planned a 25-unit apartment complex, but its development hinges on the center’s being funded. It will be built at the current site of the Rise & Stars Community Center at 500 Omaha Way, which won’t be torn down until Bridgeview opens.
Although both lawmakers said it’s a worthwhile project, they admitted money will be tight this legislative session.
The state is facing a school funding crisis, and uncertainties with the federal health care system could also affect the state budget. Plus, there is always a demand for capital project dollars across the state.
But, Harris said, “Southwest Washington lawmakers are all on board with this project, and it’s on our list.”