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News / Clark County News

Hope Village Safe Stay gets a lifeline: Vancouver will provide wage increases, case manager

New position will help shelter residents find jobs or substance-use treatment

By Alexis Weisend, Columbian staff reporter
Published: April 10, 2024, 6:06am
6 Photos
Hope Village Program Manager Patrick Quinlan, right, leads a community meeting Tuesday at the Hope Village Safe Stay in Vancouver.
Hope Village Program Manager Patrick Quinlan, right, leads a community meeting Tuesday at the Hope Village Safe Stay in Vancouver. (Photos by Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

People are staying longer on average in the city of Vancouver’s four Safe Stay shelters, according to city staff.

That’s why the Vancouver City Council approved an amended annual operating budget of $766,457 for Hope Village, the Safe Stay operated by the nonprofit Live Love Outreach at 4915 E. Fourth Plain Blvd.

The city has dedicated additional funding for staffing at two other Safe Stays in the past six months. The fenced-off communities of shedlike units are not meant to be permanent housing.

Almost half of all residents who have stayed at Hope Village since it opened in April 2022 have transitioned into permanent housing. But some people have lived at Hope Village for the full two years it’s been open, Live Love Outreach Executive Director Brian Norris said. These people need more help before they can do well on their own or in specialized housing, he said.

With the $163,896 boost, Hope Village will give staff cost-of-living wage increases and hire a case manager to help people find jobs or substance-use treatment before they get into housing.

“When you’re dealing with people that have dealt with chronic homelessness and mental health or addiction, whatever it might be, it’s not as easy,” Norris said. “We don’t want to be known as a place that’s funneling people through just to have them back on the street.”

The funding may also allow Hope Village to hire someone who could check in on residents who have graduated from the Safe Stay into permanent housing. This will help keep people stable and prevent them from returning to homelessness, Norris said.

“That’s where I think the system has kind of failed people,” he said. “We get them into an apartment, and then we just kind of let them go.”

Jamie Spinelli, homelessness outreach manager for the city, said people are staying longer across all types of shelter, not just Safe Stays, and this may signal a need for additional support.

“We don’t have enough places for people to exit to in regards to permanent housing,” she said.

Clark County needs to develop more than 50,000 units of low-income housing by 2044 to keep up with the state’s projected housing needs, according to a state report.

Many people in shelters are older adults with fixed incomes, Spinelli said. Between 2019 and 2022, the number of people older than 55 accessing some type of homeless service in Clark County increased by 34 percent to 1,187. In 2022, 149 of those people were more than 70 years old, according to Council for the Homeless data.

Meanwhile, rising rents are outpacing Social Security checks. A typical one-bedroom apartment in Clark County rents for $1,610 a month, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

And if people are suffering from a mental or physical illness, there are even fewer places for them to find permanent housing, Spinelli said.

“Many of these folks will end up, even after stabilizing, needing to move into a permanent supportive housing program, and options right now don’t suit everyone,” she said.

Norris said he hopes adding more staffing at Hope Village will help people find the right housing for them.

“The end game is to get them into some form of housing that’s good for them,” Norris said. “It’ll definitely benefit people with whatever challenges, whatever barriers that they’re facing.

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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.