A three-story, 40-unit assisted living facility that will provide critical housing and support for formerly homeless individuals with complex behavioral and physical health challenges is opening in Hazel Dell.
A grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony was held at Tenny Creek Assisted Living, 1520 N.E. 94th St., on Monday. The event included speakers and a tour of the new facility.
“It is an important day for Clark County as we mark the opening of this very much-needed facility,” said Vancouver Housing Authority Board of Commissioners Chair Joan Caley. “Due to their complex medical needs and difficulty living independently, the people who will live here will stop the cycle of homelessness, incarceration and stays at shelters and Western State Hospital, as well as multiple visits to emergency rooms.”
The facility was developed by the Vancouver Housing Authority and funded by a variety of sources. The National Development Council provided a low-income housing tax credit equity following the Vancouver Housing Authority’s approval by the Washington Housing and Finance Authority. The Washington Department of Commerce’s Housing Trust Fund, Clark County funds, a direct state capital grant and Vancouver Housing Authority equity also provided funding.
The total cost for the facility: $17,153,100.
Tenny Creek will be staffed 24/7 by employees accustomed to working with people who struggle with behavioral and physical health challenges. Operations will be supported by Medicaid and rental subsidies from the Vancouver Housing Authority that will be received following the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s approval to designate the units as public housing.
“Since the operational cost for facilities of this nature are high, Clark County approved the use of a local sales tax fund to bolster the startup, and we are hopeful that a Department of Commerce operations application will be approved for ongoing support,” Caley said.
Other speakers at Monday’s event included Rep. Paul Harris, Clark County Treasurer and Commissioner Alishia Topper, Rep. Sharon Wylie, Vancouver Housing Authority Executive Director Roy Johnson and Clark County Community Services Director Vanessa Gaston.
“This is going to be the first facility of its kind in Washington,” Gaston said. “It’s expensive, but it’s cheaper than people being in jail, in prison or in an emergency room. It’s actually cheaper than Western State Hospital. These are our community members, and we need to help take care of them.”
Residents will be able to gain access to the facility through a referral from a social worker or outreach organization. Preference will be given to those who are experiencing homelessness, who have functional and physical impairments, who are referred by the Department of Social and Health Services for assisted living residency, and who reside in Clark County at the time of application.
Once someone receives approval for residency at Tenny Creek, they can live there indefinitely, according to Tenny Creek Assisted Living Executive Director Gerardo Lopez.
“If they like this facility, this is where they can stay for the rest of their life,” he said. “This will become their home, their place of residence.”
All 40 rooms at Tenny Creek are the same and include a bed, an ADA accessible bathroom, a kitchenette, a closet and lots of storage space. A laundry room is available on each floor for residents who choose to do their own laundry, though employees will be available to assist residents with whatever they need. Communal meals will be held daily.
The facility will have a strict no drug and alcohol policy. However, it won’t have a one-strike-and-you’re-out policy.
“We can’t just say, ‘Well, you’ve done drugs, now you’re out,’” Lopez said. “This is where we have to try to work with them. We have to try to meet them where they’re at. We need to get them involved in their services.”
Five people have been approved to move into the facility once it opens to residents in June. All applicants must complete a history and physical exam for approval to ensure that the facility will meet their needs. If an applicant doesn’t have a physician able to perform a history and physical exam, Tenny Creek will provide one.
“We will do everything we can to assist people through the application process,” Lopez said.
On top of the five people already approved for residency, four are pending approval, meaning the facility could open with nearly a quarter of its rooms already filled.
“The first few months are going to be really busy as we get people moved in and settled into a routine,” Lopez said.
Every speaker at the event said that mental health services are a much-needed resource in Clark County.
“Forty units does not meet the need that we have in our community,” Harris said. “Other facilities will be needed, but I’m glad I’m in a community that recognizes that need and has done something about it and continues to do things about it.”