Shelter in cold weather a problem for Aberdeen


Plans are in place to bring emergency cold shelter back to Westport this winter. However, with temperatures already dropping, a request for proposals to run one in Aberdeen went unanswered.

The Coastal Community Action Program (CCAP) managed the cold weather emergency shelter in Aberdeen last winter, which “served up to 25 clients (per night) during the seasonal period,” Cassie Lentz said. , Grays Harbor County Public Health and Human Services Division. Manager, at a county commissioners council workshop on Wednesday to deal with an emergency shelter.

“They served 180 individual customers, but on average they had 20-25, full every night,” she said.

Earlier this month, CCAP renewed most of its homeless service contracts with the county, but not the cold-weather shelter due to capacity constraints, staffing issues and other considerations. Lentz told commissioners at a meeting earlier in September.

Priorities for Wednesday’s workshop were “to identify next steps, roles and timing, if any, for cold weather services in Grays Harbor County,” Lentz told commissioners.

Her job, she said, was to educate Commissioners as best she could about the need for an emergency shelter, best practices and other data so that Commissioners could decide which way to go. to follow.

The Westport cold weather emergency shelter will operate as it did last winter, Lentz said. The port chaplains will again serve approximately 25 clients per night at its location.

Commissioners Kevin Pine and Jill Warne asked questions during the workshop about whether services would be available at such a shelter, who would get priority placement, current shelter capacity and rules, and what the requirements would be. admission. Meanwhile, representatives from Grays Harbor County Public Health and CCAP said they need direction from the commission to proceed with another round of requests for proposals before they can answer any of these questions.

“You ask questions about assumptions with suppliers who have not submitted proposals. And these are not our funds. It is taxpayers’ money. And the legal method for proper taxpayer funding is to do a competitive process, ”said Curtis Steinhauer, Housing Coordinator of Social Services and Public Health for Grays Harbor County.

“So questions about whether the Union Gospel Mission has religious requirements that we cannot fund, questions about whether the community house is a good provider, questions about something like that are not workable by us as staff until we obtain (commissioner instructions) to open the competitive process (tender).

Commissioner Vickie Raines asked Greg Clayclamp, CCSI’s Director of Housing and Community Services, to share his thoughts on emergency shelters.

“The people we saw in the shelter in the cold weather were largely people who are affected by behavioral health and substance abuse issues and have no other good options,” he said. declared.

“And the reason we understood that we were providing them with shelter was that these were the vulnerable population who were at risk of death or serious medical consequences if they were not sheltered in the cold weather.” . “

There are programs for families and others for housing and emergency shelter, but Clayclamp said sheltering those vulnerable due to mental health and / or addiction issues is part of the program.

Steinhauer, at the end of the workshop, thanked the Commissioners for their time and for addressing the need for an emergency shelter in cold weather “as something that we must respond to now and urgently” for the region.

“As you know, we talk a lot about the best ways to tackle homelessness and why we should tackle it, and Commissioner Warne, you have mentioned a number of times your ideas about giving a helping hand instead of a handout, and I appreciate all of that, ”he said.

“But I just want to say for the record that this is one of the programs that, quite literally, without hyperbole, will keep people from dying, like dying now, under really terrible circumstances.”

He continued: “Anyone doing this job knows someone over the past few years who has lost his life sitting on the sidewalk in Aberdeen because it was cold and there was no resource for them. I think most of those I know have all had substance abuse issues. The people I know have all made very bad choices. But they remain our family and friends, and we should try to create resources so that they can stay alive.

A new possibility this year is a public fund that can be used for hotel and motel vouchers for emergency shelter. The county can contract with a coordinating entity to team up with hotels and motels and use voucher funds to provide shelter as needed.

“The funds would pay the voucher, the hotel would have to accept this voucher, they would have to agree to host that guest in exchange for payment,” Steinhauer explained.

“There may be considerations as to whether they can refuse it and under what circumstances, but it would be like a business transaction between the agency that has the vouchers and the hotel saying, we have this voucher, did you room ? “

There is just under $ 450,000 in state grant funds administered by the Washington State Department of Commerce available for the voucher program. Pine recommended that a request for proposals to administer the program be drafted, stating that it is intended for families with children.

Public health staff will now be drafting a new request for proposals for cold weather shelter services and administration of the family-friendly hotel and motel voucher program, Lentz said after the workshop.

“Once this is drafted, it goes to the county commissioners council for review / approval as part of their consent program,” she said. “We are aiming for their meeting on October 5th if possible. Once approved, the (Request for Proposal) is posted on public health and county websites, a legal opinion is posted, and we share widely through our mailing lists to get the word out to interested and qualified agencies.

Aside from the grant available for the Hotels and Motels Fund, there is just over $ 340,000 in Commerce Department grants available through the state’s emergency shelter fund to work with. These can be used for capital funding to acquire and renovate shelter sites, and for operational funding capped at $ 56 per night per bed.

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