After two years of planning and discussions between local government officials and housing advocates, the Vancouver City Council was scheduled on Aug. 26 to take a vote on a major reorganization of Clark County’s homelessness response system, forming a Joint Executive Board on Homelessness.
But the vote was suddenly and quietly pulled from the council’s agenda. One reason was that the city had just hired Jackie St. Louis, Vancouver’s first-ever homeless resource manager, and wanted his input first.
Another reason for the delay was city officials were working behind the scenes with the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund to hire Alpha Project, a San Diego-based homelessness nonprofit, to conduct a third-party review on the city’s approach to homelessness. The review included the Vancouver Navigation Center, a homeless services center that has been the subject of neighborhood complaints and criticism from the city council.
The decision to pull the vote was made quickly and involved decisions made outside of the city council’s normal public procedures. Although the city wanted the review, it was paid for with private philanthropy, which Andy Silver, a longtime local housing advocate and former executive director of the Council for the Homeless, described as a source of confusion. The move raised questions over just how transparent the city had been in calling for the review, and officials have been tight-lipped about its scope.
“The question is how wide is the assessment that Alpha Project is doing?” said Kate Budd, executive director of the Council for the Homeless — the county’s leading homelessness advocacy group. “Right now, I have no idea what their timeline is, nor have they requested any documents from us.”