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Sunday, December 3, 2023
Dec. 3, 2023

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St. Paul Lutheran Church’s shelter gains redesigned bathroom

By , Columbian staff reporter
2 Photos
Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, center, and LSW architect Jacob DeNeui examine the redesigned bathroom at the men's shelter at St. Paul Lutheran Church.
Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, center, and LSW architect Jacob DeNeui examine the redesigned bathroom at the men's shelter at St. Paul Lutheran Church. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle walked into a bathroom in downtown Vancouver last week and her jaw dropped slightly.

For 20 years, there was one shower for 30 men to use at the shelter operated out of St. Paul Lutheran Church at 1309 Franklin St.

That was until a recent Friday, when a small group made up of church leaders, city and county officials and homeless service providers gathered around the newly remodeled bathroom oohing and awing. With a snip of a red ribbon, the shelter celebrated the space having two showers.

“It’s a small thing, but it’s also a big thing and the impact it will have,” said the Rev. Linda Marousek.

Accessibility and dignity

At the outset, the downtown shelter had no shower facility because it was originally a Sunday school. Residents had to find other places to shower, like the nearby Share House.

Then in 2003, the church remodeled and had a bit of extra cash on the side to add a shower to the shelter.

The former shower set up was a single, standard shower with a curtain and toilet.

“That bathroom was used hard,” Marousek said. “But it couldn’t keep going.” Now the remodeled bathroom offers residents an inviting space with two showers, ADA accessible toilets and a separate private bathroom for staff. The bathroom was remodeled by Kashas Design Build, a Vancouver construction company.

The bathroom project was made possible by initial funding from the Ed and Dollie Lynch Foundation and completed with a grant that Outsiders Inn obtained.

During the ribbon-cutting event, McEnerny-Ogle said the remodeled bathroom is bringing the community one step closer to helping people defeat barriers and keep moving forward.

“We cut ribbons for 199 apartments, we cut ribbons for manufacturing … we’re absolutely honored to help cut a ribbon on a shower and a toilet,” she said, earning laughs from the audience.

The addition of a shower might seem like a small feat to some, but for people experiencing housing instability, it can be a luxury to have an accessible and reliable shower.

“‘I want to say on behalf of all the men who will be utilizing these bathrooms … there have already been so many words of gratefulness, respect, dignity,” Outsiders Inn Executive Director Adam Kravitz said.

Moving forward, county and city officials said that it takes the combined efforts to continue making solutions to help those most in need.

“We have so much more to do,” Clark County Councilor Gary Medvigy said. “The county can’t do it all, the city can’t do it all — it takes partnerships with nonprofits and spiritual (communities) … it takes the entirety of the community to find solutions like this.”

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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