VANCOUVER, Wash. — The city of Vancouver is investing in more safe places for homeless residents to stay.
The city opened its first sanctioned homeless village — or Safe Stay Community — off Northeast 51st Circle just before last Christmas. It provides shelter for up to 40 people.
The city plans to add two more Safe Stay communities so on Monday, Vancouver City Council approved about $402,000 worth of pallet shelters, ordering now to avoid price increases later this year.
“We looked at them, we looked at the success, taking it a little at a time and we said, ‘yeah let's go for it.' said Vancouver Mayor Anne McEmerny-Ogle. "We know the prices are going to go up on all of those, we know that we have a goal for two more communities."
Exactly when and where the new sites will open is still a question mark, but Mayor McEnerny-Ogle said the next site will be in west Vancouver.
Shyrah Presnell came out of five years of homelessness and now works as outreach coordinator for Outsiders Inn, the nonprofit that manages the first city-sanctioned community.
“The sense of safety and stability that we have here, I can only imagine what it would have done for me," said Presnell.
Jamie Spinelli, Vancouver's homeless response coordinator, said the shelters and services at the first Safe Stay Community are already making a difference.
“There are some people that have already achieved employment, there are some people seeking treatment knowing they have a safe place to come back to and they won't be back out on the streets,” said Spinelli.
She said she hopes a second site will be open in March and a third sometime this summer.
Presnell thinks it's a critical investment.
“Expanding it is everything. I mean the homeless, you can see this everywhere … It's growing, it's not going to change, so now that we have a solution. There's a way out of it.”
Meanwhile, the city of Portland has been planning to open its own sanctioned homeless villages known as "Safe Rest Villages." The city has chosen three sites for those villages and is working to determine three more sites. The sites are expected to open in 2022.