Vancouver OKs $4.3M for homeless day center

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VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — The Vancouver City Council OK’d spending $4.3 million to buy a building in the central part of the city to be used as the new site for a homeless day center once remodeling is completed.

The council approved buying the former state Fish and Wildlife Building near Fourth Plain, right on a bus line in central Vancouver, across from a Walmart. There are homes along 2 sides.

Remodeling on the building at 2018 Grand Boulevard is planned to begin in February, city officials said in a release Tuesday morning.

In a statement, Vancouver’s Community and Economic Development Manager Peggy Sheehan said:

“The City would like to begin remodeling work in February to enable the relocation of a day center, currently at Friends of the Carpenter downtown, to the Grand Boulevard building within the next three months. I look forward to this project being a collaborative effort with our community partners.”

The 25,000+ square foot building will be managed by Share, the operator of the day center at its current location. Closing date is expected to be January 24.

Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said the issues of homelessness and affordable housing are pressing matters in the city.

“Purchasing this property is in keeping with the City’s desire to be proactive in addressing the growing need for homeless services in our community,” she said in a statement.

And City Manager Eric Holmes said he was pleased the city was able to buy this site.What businesses and neighbors say

This building at 2018 Grand Boulevard in Vancouver is slated to become a homeless day center, January 9, 2018  (KOIN)

Several Vancouver home and business owners made it clear to city councilors they don’t want a day shelter for the homeless literally in their backyard.

“Too many single family homes nearby. They’ll absorb this like a sponge,” said Vancouver business owner Rich Berenzano. “They’ll be breaking into cars, sleeping in yards. You read the letters. One guy found some guy upstairs in his daughter’s bedroom.”

Nearby homeowner Eric Lambert shared similar thoughts.

“The fears of a Trojan Horse being granted via a day center are real and the hardworking people who live here and have businesses feel like they’re being hoodwinked,” he said.

They worry a large shelter here would be the next step. For now, the city plans to use 5000 square feet of the building for a day center that would be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with restrooms, showers and laundry.

City councilors and staff believe counseling, housing assistance and job services here will help reduce the homeless population.

Sheehan said the city plans “to resolve the problem, not make it worse. Get those people who are outside to come in and connect with services.”

City managers said police will enforce camping laws.

But neighbors surrounding 2 sides of the building are figuring out what they”ll do next to block it from opening this spring — and becoming a homeless shelter in the future.

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