COAST chairman Carl Hanson, at right, speaks with Port Townsend City Council member Robert Grey at a meeting regarding the city’s new year-round homeless shelter. Representatives from OlyCAP and multiple local organizations were also present. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

COAST chairman Carl Hanson, at right, speaks with Port Townsend City Council member Robert Grey at a meeting regarding the city’s new year-round homeless shelter. Representatives from OlyCAP and multiple local organizations were also present. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Groups addressing details of new Port Townsend homeless shelter

PORT TOWNSEND — Representatives from a number of local organizations are tackling the logistics of a new year-round homeless shelter, which is planned as an extension of the Port Townsend winter shelter.

The winter shelter, which will close its doors Saturday morning, is co-managed by two nonprofits, the Community Outreach Association Shelter Team (COAST) and Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP), and run out of the lower levels of the American Legion in Port Townsend.

The new year-round shelter will be managed entirely by OlyCAP and primarily funded by the Jefferson County Homeless Funds, which are derived from property transfer fees and designated specifically for homeless services.

According OlyCAP Executive Director Dale Wilson, Homeless Funds currently are sufficient to run the shelter for 24 months.

“That’s why we felt confident in moving this project forward,” Wilson said at a Monday press conference on the project.

The shelter will still operate out of the American Legion, 209 Monroe St., and will continue to operate from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. each day. However, the new shelter, dubbed Shelter Plus, will operate very differently from the winter shelter.

The shelter will no longer offer meals and bus passes, which are offered through OlyCAP during the winter months.

“Part of cutting those programs is to make those funds stretch as much as possible,” said Kathy Morgan, the housing director for OlyCAP.

The shelter will also be cutting down the number of people they will house at one time. In the winter the shelter has housed up to 48 people in a single night, whereas the year-round shelter will house no more than about 26 people.

The shelter will also have a strict policy that guests remain clean and sober, and people older than 62, veterans and women in distress will be given priority, according to Morgan.

“As the weather gets better the shelter tends to clear out,” Morgan said. “But what we’ve found in the last few years is those in those vulnerable populations — the elderly, veterans and those fleeing domestic violence — they don’t have anywhere else to go.”

According to Morgan, the winter shelter is meant to get people out of the cold while this year-round shelter will be geared mostly toward getting people back on their feet.

That means bringing in volunteers to teach people how to search for jobs and helping people — especially the elderly and veterans — access other social services that can get them into permanent housing and provide them a reliable source of income.

“This is supposed to be a stepping stone to permanent housing,” Wilson said. “If you can plug people into those income streams that’s a huge advantage.”

Morgan has said that OlyCAP plans to partner with COAST again next winter for the winter shelter.

This will be OlyCAP’s first attempt at a year-round shelter model and Wilson stressed the need for input from the community.

“We’ve clearly heard that they want change,” Wilson said.

The year-round shelter is scheduled to open Saturday, April 8.

Those who do not qualify for the year-round shelter will be directed to other services from OlyCAP and to shelters in surrounding counties. OlyCAP and COAST will also continue the annual push to get sleeping bags and tents to those who will be without housing, though Morgan pointed out that neither organization sees that as a solution to the county’s homeless problem.

“I’d much rather see them in permanent housing,” Morgan said. “A tent is not housing, it’s not really a solution, but if that’s what they need then we’ll do that.”

OlyCAP is located at 823 Commerce Loop in Port Townsend and representatives can be contacted at 360-385-2571.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.

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