Olivia Resnick, who oversees outreach and Housing First programs for Share, will oversee the day center and its employees. She said there will typically be at least three people working at any given time, including a housing navigator whose job it will be to help people find housing. While the focus is to get people housed and linked to other resources and gainful employment, the day center is meant to be a safe, comfortable place to be — even if people aren’t ready to connect to services.
“As long as we’re a welcoming space, then we’re doing a good job,” she said.
Similar to the old day center in west Vancouver, there will be a rotating cadre of groups providing classes in life skills, wellness and art. Share will be tracking how many people visit the day center and are connected to services.
Resnick encourages community members to volunteer at the day center to “combat hesitation and fears.” Surrounding residents and businesses expressed concerns during public hearings, and in January the Maplewood and Rose Village neighborhood associations appealed the city’s decision to use 2018 Grand Blvd. as a day center.
The appeal alleged that the city’s application was improperly filed and that the hearings examiner, who had approved the site use, failed to consider arguments made by neighborhood representatives during the public hearing process. The appeal was rejected by the hearings examiner and the city.
Peggy Sheehan, the city’s community and economic development programs manager, doesn’t view the appeal as an obstacle to opening the center.
“It’s all part of the process,” she said. “It’s important for the city to work with the community.”
She said the city will continue meeting monthly and collaborating with the surrounding neighborhoods through its good neighbor commitment, a document finalized Wednesday that outlines how the city will address concerns. Sheehan added that the security officers who patrol other city buildings will include the Navigation Center in their evening rounds.
The property’s exterior got upgraded lighting, landscaping, a new alarm system and a fence that extends to the sidewalk. (This blocks the strip of land between the sidewalk and the building to discourage camping, which is not allowed at the center.)
Talkin’ Trash, a crew of homeless and formerly homeless people who clean up trash around the city, will operate out of the facility. Vancouver police will also have space they can use.
The city used a $145,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce, $25,000 from the BNSF Railway Foundation and approximately $180,000 in general fund money for exterior renovations.
Josh Walker, project manager with James E. John, said the construction total for the inside of the building was $483,000. The company is under the umbrella of C.E. John, which pledged $150,000 for renovations and an additional $30,000 annually for the next five years to help fund operational costs. The Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund donated $300,000, and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund gave $50,000 toward labor and materials.
“We basically did this budget as the design was evolving,” Walker said.
Built to last
Walker said his team had to consider what materials to use to make the space last with repeated wear and tear while keeping within the budget. Most of the work was in the bathroom and laundry space, which used to be a conference room. Construction began in mid-August and wrapped up Tuesday.
“It turned out as well as we could have imagined,” said Michael Parshall, principal with Woodblock Architecture, a Portland architectural firm that offered its services. “It’s really an example of what can happen when everyone partners together.”
The day center takes up about 5,000 square feet of the 26,578-square-foot building. Other nonprofits and service providers, including Community Services Northwest and Council for the Homeless, are interested in using the remaining space.
“Throughout the winter, we’ll be engaging the community as well as additional nonprofit homeless service providers to determine the best mix of services in the building as we move forward,” Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said during the grand opening.
She said the day center will be an option for providing overnight shelter during severe winter weather, though the funding for that has not been secured.
In 2016, the city began searching for a building to replace the day center at Friends of the Carpenter, which was deemed to not be a viable long-term host. Executive Director Tom Iberle said he’s not sure who will occupy the space in the future after the day center closes Sunday, but there are several interested groups.
Last year the day center assisted 952 people. Of those, 160 got help with employment and 102 were helped in finding housing.
“Even in that small space we were able to serve a lot of people,” Sheehan said.