VANCOUVER, Wash. -- Some members of Vancouver’s homeless community are applauding the city’s proposal to relocate a day center for the homeless.
On Monday, the city announced plans to purchase the former Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife building on Grand Boulevard for a price of $4.3 million. The space would be remodeled and turned into location that would provide services for the homeless.
The city’s current day center, located at the Friends of the Carpenter building near downtown, would close once the new center is up and running.
The day center serves as a place for homeless people to go to rest, use lockers, log on to the internet, and escape bad weather. The current facility lacks something, though.
“Mainly, laundry facilities and a shower. Somewhere to actually bathe, get clean,” said Ryan Merricks, a homeless Vancouver man who visits the day center.
“There’s not that many places here in Vancouver to shower at all,” added Toshia Hayes, who’s also homeless.
Share Vancouver, the nonprofit that operates the day center on behalf of the city, agrees.
“We really need a building that’s a little bit bigger, perhaps more centrally located,” said Jessica Lightheart, Share’s community relations director. “I’ve worked for Share for 12 years. And they’ve been talking about a day center for all those years.”
Vancouver leaders agree with Lightheart's assessment.
"Without the availability of a full-service day center in our city, homeless people have been increasingly frequenting parks, businesses and public buildings. We've listened to concerns from our residents and businesses, and have been diligently working with our partners and local service providers to find solutions to help those who are living on the streets," Vancouver Mayor Time Leavitt said in a press release.
Clark County’s most recent point in time homeless count recorded approximately 750 homeless people across the county, an increase from the year before.
Under the proposal, the city would purchase the 25,000-square-foot WDFW building with the intent of creating a day center with more services such as showers, laundry, and more restrooms. A feasibility study would need to be completed first and remodeling of the building would follow.
Future plans could include an overnight shelter, the city said in a press release.
Some people living near the proposed new location in the Maplewood neighborhood told KGW they were in favor of the idea.
“I think the long term plan is better. Because I sure as heck don’t want a bunch of people that think it’s home and then are out all night. Because then they can get in trouble,” said neighbor Yvonne Payette.
“I think it’s an excellent idea. I used to be homeless myself,” added Shanelda Pritchett, who also lives nearby. “I feel like it would be a great improvement for the neighborhood and help a lot of people out.”
“It’s a resource that’s been long needed in this community. The building is going to be plenty big, which is fantastic, particularly when you talk about enough space for shower and laundry facilities,” said Lightheart.
The city hopes to close on the WDFW building by the end of January 2018.