“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.
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.