Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Feb. 1, 2023

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Vancouver Mall-area hotel to become homeless shelter

Vancouver Housing Authority to purchase, convert Howard Johnson

By , Columbian sports staff

The Vancouver Housing Authority has plans to purchase the Howard Johnson by Wyndham Vancouver Hotel & Suites near Vancouver Mall for use as a noncongregate shelter for unhoused people.

The VHA made the announcement Friday.

The 63-room hotel, at 9201 N.E. Vancouver Mall Drive in the Van Mall neighborhood, will continue operating as a hotel until the sale closes in February.

The Howard Johnson was chosen for its location near public services, employment and the Vancouver Mall Transit Center, according to a news release.

The VHA will notify neighboring businesses and residents about the purchase by mail and invite them to participate in remote informational meetings about the shelter plans.

As a noncongregate shelter, those staying there will have private rooms and restrooms, a critical feature during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It will also be a continuous-stay shelter, meaning residents will not be required to leave each morning to find a place to be during the day.

Andy Silver, VHA’s director of supportive services, said the more private space people have, the more successful they are transitioning from homelessness to housing.

“It’s also seen as a more trauma-informed way to provide shelter space,” Silver said in a news release.

He noted that some shelter residents are victims of violence.

“Having a door that locks and private space is a big part of feeling safe,” he said.

This will be the fourth shelter owned by VHA and operated by service providers in Clark County.

VHA is working with Clark County Community Services and the city of Vancouver to open the shelter. All three agencies are contributing funds to buy the property.

Funding for shelter operations will come from a variety of state, federal and local sources. VHA is in the process of seeking additional funding for the site purchase and operations.

Clark County Community Services will hire an operator for the shelter with the goal of opening it in March or early April. Shelter operations funding will come from a variety of state, federal and local sources.

When funding for the shelter runs out in two to three years, VHA plans to convert the facility into permanent affordable housing.

“We’re trying to look at whatever means we can to add to the affordable housing stock in Clark County,” said VHA Executive Director Roy Johnson.

Silver said that while the hospitality industry has slowed down during the pandemic, the same cannot be said for the rental market. Converting hotels to affordable housing “is a great opportunity,” he said.

The housing authority is looking to convert other Clark County hotels and motels into permanent affordable housing. Last year, a temporary 116-room shelter operated at the Motel 6 location in east Vancouver. It closed in December when funds ran out.