“It’s unfortunate that those words are receiving the publicity that they are,” she said. The report was “written with the flavor that their way is the only way, and we just know that not to be true.
“Their way is effective and so is ours,” McWithey said.
Shortly after Alpha Project’s September visit, Bob McElroy, the group’s president, told The Columbian that the findings of his report were “going to piss people off.” His organization is known for its 324-bed bridge shelter, a reinforced tent that was erected in response to a hepatitis A outbreak among San Diego’s homeless population.
While speaking with The Columbian on Friday, McElroy said Alpha Project was in the middle of opening another bridge shelter. He said the report was Alpha Project’s opinion and was not a rebuke of Share.
Operating a day center, housing navigation center and temporary bridge shelter the way Alpha Project does is tremendously challenging and has involved a lot of trial and error, he said.
“It’s tough. It’s not a rebuke of the agencies who try and do it. They have specialties in other areas,” McElroy said.
At its facility in San Diego, Alpha Project has made changes primarily based on feedback from homeless clients. The nonprofit relies heavily on trained staff who are formerly homeless or recovering addicts.
Vancouver wouldn’t necessarily have to find another agency to take over the Navigation Center but could form its own group. McElroy encouraged Vancouver to seek out people who are passionate about addressing the problem and working with homeless people. It’s important that the city repair its relationship with the neighborhoods surrounding the Navigation Center, he said.
“Optics are huge. It should start there,” he said.
The day center originally opened mid-December 2015 at Friends of the Carpenter in west Vancouver and last November moved to 2018 Grand Boulevard in central Vancouver. The new, larger location has drawn criticism from community members and Vancouver City Council, which requested the third-party review. The review was paid for by the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund held at the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington.
Share is working with its staff and the city on the transition.
Vancouver City Councilor Erik Paulsen said that city leaders plan to put out a request for proposals to find a new Navigation Center operator. But in the meantime, the local government may take a more hands-on role at the day shelter, running the facility with staff and contractors hired by the city directly.
“I believe there is a bridge strategy that would involve the city taking on a little bit more of the day-to-day operations until we can find a new partner,” Paulsen said.
A thorough cleaning of the building interior will take place Nov. 8 through Nov. 10, during which the Navigation Center will be closed. When it reopens Nov. 11, the Vancouver Police Department will have a daily presence at the facility “to help with security and code of conduct rules” through Nov. 24, the email said.
The changes mirror some of the recommendations outlined in Alpha Project’s report. During a Dec. 10 community meeting at the Navigation Center, St. Louis will discuss the changes and answer questions.
Some people using the day center Friday afternoon who spoke with The Columbian had heard about the upcoming change and said they were curious what the day center will look like.
Many said they relied on the shower, laundry and mail services offered at the Navigation Center.
“I hope it doesn’t close,” said Tracey Valenzuela, who’s been visiting the day center since it opened.
She said if there were more rules maybe people would respect the place more.
Scott Gibson recommended that the city, as the new operator of the day center, “cut the BS.” He said the announcement was a surprise to him and he’s going to wait and see what the new center will be like. His biggest criticism of the Navigation Center is that it takes a long time for people to get housing.