PORT ANGELES — Serenity House of Clallam County is preparing to close its night-by-night shelter Friday, but could reopen by fall now that local churches and other organizations have started searching for short-term and long-term funding.
“Keeping the lights on right now is not going to happen,” said Serenity House Director Doc Robinson on Wednesday. “It’s tragic and it’s difficult for staff and clients, but it would be far worse if we were not aiming to be open [this fall].”
The ad-hoc group of churches is led by T. Scott Brandon, development director for Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics (VIMO), and includes representatives of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, First United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, United Way of Clallam County, the city of Port Angeles, Clallam County and VIMO.
Serenity House announced in April that it would need to close its three shelters — the night-by-night, family and sober shelters — due to lack of funding.
The sober shelter was closed earlier this year and the family shelter has stopped taking new clients.
Robinson said Clallam County would need to provide $200,000 to keep the night-by-night and family shelters operating through the end of the year. The Board of County Commissioners amended a previously approved $55,000 contract that kept the night-by-night shelter open until the end of June.
Brandon said this news led to him reaching out to community churches and organizations to find short-term funding and long-term funding to keep the night-by-night shelter open.
He said the group determined it was best to find funding to reopen the night-by-night shelter as soon as possible while also looking at ways to diversify Serenity House’s funding streams for shelters.
“It could be a combination of grants, contracts, fundraising, strategic partnerships and anything that will stabilize the funding streams for Serenity House’s shelters,” he said.
Robinson said that last year the night-by-night shelter served 401 individuals and had 6,942 bed nights. The shelter acts as triage that helps connect people to other housing services Serenity House provides.
He said 11 to 15 people are using the shelter each night now, but that number would climb to 20 to 30 if it reopens in October, largely due to the weather. In the winter, 35 to 45 people use the shelter each night.
He said that last year 24 percent of people who stayed at the shelter were eventually placed into permanent housing.
These discussions have led to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church pledging to donate $10,000 in short-term funding and other churches committing to find funds, said the Rev. Olaf Baumann.
He said the leaders of each of the churches still needed to meet to determine what was available.
“We think they will be forthcoming,” Baumann said. “We were just lucky because we had a regular meeting with our committee that oversees our endowment fund and we had the ability to allocate some funds.”
United Way of Clallam County accepts donations for any nonprofit at anytime, said Cristy Smith, chief executive officer.
“The United Way board is considering what extra steps they can do to help Serenity House at this time of crisis,” she said.
Robinson said he hopes to find a way to reopen the shelter long term, though he doesn’t know whether that will happen.
Serenity House announced the closure of its shelters after it was unable to secure funding from Clallam County.
This year 11 different agencies asked for a combined $936,587 from the county’s homeless fund, a fund paid for though recording fees. There was only $409,000 available.
Robinson said the state Department of Commerce adjusted how it funds shelters, which included dropping the Emergency Solutions Grant for rural counties, but boosting the Consolidated Homeless Grant to the county.
Robinson said Serenity House has applied for nine grants for the shelter and received several small grants, but has not been able to find a significant source of funding.
“I’m not making promises,” he said. “We have managed the best we can.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].