<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=192888919167017&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Sunday,  June 16 , 2024

Linkedin Pinterest
News / Clark County News

Vancouver to spend an extra $1.4 million for staffing at two Safe Stay Communities

Nonprofit managing the sites says living wage needed to retain workers

By Alexis Weisend, Columbian staff reporter
Published: September 29, 2023, 6:00am
3 Photos
Workers install a concrete cylinder on West 11th Street in downtown Vancouver. The lot is the future site of the city's third Safe Stay transitional housing community, which was green-lighted in November 2022 by the Vancouver City Council. On Aug. 28, construction contracts were awarded to prepare the site for an estimated fall 2023 opening.
Workers install a concrete cylinder on West 11th Street in downtown Vancouver. The lot is the future site of the city's third Safe Stay transitional housing community, which was green-lighted in November 2022 by the Vancouver City Council. On Aug. 28, construction contracts were awarded to prepare the site for an estimated fall 2023 opening. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The Vancouver City Council agreed Monday to spend an extra $1.4 million on two Safe Stay Communities over the next year amid concerns of staff burnout and insufficient pay.

The increase was included in a $3.48 million contract with Outsiders Inn, the nonprofit running the city’s first Safe Stay, The Outpost in east Vancouver, and preparing to operate a yet-unnamed Safe Stay downtown.

The funding will bring Outsiders Inn into compliance with upcoming state requirements for peer support specialists — people with lived experience supporting people struggling with mental health or substance use.

The Legislature passed Senate Bill 5555 last year to make peer specialists a certified profession. It created an advisory committee, which recommended paying peer specialists a living wage and creating different certification types. The legislation also created requirements for continuing education.

Adam Kravitz, executive director of Outsiders Inn, said it’s important for his staff to have a livable wage.

“For us, it was a matter of catching up to prevailing wages with peer support specialists and with homeless service providers,” he said. “We’re one of the first to be a 100 percent lived experience homelessness provider. There are no other in the state that we know of.”

When The Outpost opened, peer support specialists were making $16 to $17 a hour, while the going rate for shelter workers is $18 to $20, Kravitz said. He hopes the wage increase will help retain staff at the first and third Safe Stay.

Although Vancouver City Councilor Diana Perez recommended the city also look into increasing wages for Living Hope Church, which runs Vancouver’s second Safe Stay, she said she was fully supportive of the amendment.

“I think it’s important to keep up with state’s certifications and to build the talent and the skill in our community, as I don’t see us ending this emergency need in the short term future,” Perez said.

Vancouver operates two Safe Stays, has announced sites for two others and has budgeted for one more. The third Safe Stay, which will be run by Outsiders Inn, was supposed to open early this year. But weather and construction costs delayed its opening.

The city now projects it will open later this fall. The site, at 415 W. 11th St. in downtown Vancouver, is undergoing construction work.

Kravitz said he is excited for the opening and hopes to reduce some of the visual homelessness downtown. The Safe Stay is targeting people living around the Share and Vancouver City Hall encampments.

“I’m really excited to bring a sense of stability and normality to the neighborhood and to the flow of homelessness that comes through that neighborhood into downtown,” he said.

Kravitz said Outsiders Inn was able to foster a sense of community at The Outpost that he wants to replicate at the new site. Residents at The Outpost attend community meetings where they get to know each other better and give staff input on changes.

Based on some of that input, Outsiders Inn will create a small dog park at the downtown site for people’s pets to run and play. The third Safe Stay will also have a more robust security system with improved cameras, so residents and neighbors feel more comfortable.

“We’re looking forward to the impact we can make on downtown and to show all our neighbors that we can be good neighbors too,” Kravitz said.

Community Funded Journalism logo

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.

Loading...