Jefferson County provides $75,000 for summer shelter in Port Townsend

PORT TOWNSEND — Concerns about funding the Jefferson County Summer Shelter were alleviated when county commissioners voted unanimously to fund the program with $75,000 from a real estate recording fee surcharge earmarked for helping the homeless and supporting affordable housing.

The funds will replace the $40,000 grant approved by the Port Townsend City Council at its April 2 meeting. That money was to come from City Council reserves. It will be returned in light of the county’s action Monday.

“Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) in the past several weeks approached the city to see if they could supply supplemental funding to operate the summer shelter again this year after last year’s successful pilot program,” explained County Administrator Philip Morley.

“The city set aside $40,000 out of its emergency reserve fund in support of that, which fell short of OlyCAP’s request for $75,000.”

Morley said OlyCAP asked the county to contribute another $35,000 to fully fund the shelter.

That’s in addition to $30,000 that OlyCAP was looking to carve out of its own budget. This means the shelter could operate with $105,000 in total funding.

After reviewing its funding options, the county found the funds to keep the shelter going.

The Summer Shelter, at the American Legion Hall at 209 Monroe St., will run May 1 through October.

Kathy Morgan, OlyCAP housing programs director, said the program is on track.

“All paperwork has been turned in,” she said. “We’re waiting for the fire inspection. All we’re waiting for is to be open and available for men and women from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.”

Jefferson County administers Fund 148 under two interlocal agreements with the city, county and OlyCAP. One agreement earmarks funds for homelessness, the other for affordable housing. These funds are derived from recording fees that are collected when real estate transactions are recorded.

The legislation that authorized this surcharge was set to expire in 2022, but the state Legislature voted to make the surcharge permanent and raised the amount collected to $40 per transaction. Gov. Jay Inslee signed it last month.

Commissioner Kate Dean said in an interview that this legislation allows more funds to be available for supporting housing and the homeless.

“The money has been accumulating in the county. With a strong real estate market and a growing fund balance, we can put this money towards the shelter. The fund will be increasing as the year continues.”

“We are going to be meeting with all our housing partners to develop long-term goals and strategic plans,” Dean added.

“OlyCAP has deep appreciation, not just for the county, but for Port Townsend who had never been involved,” Morgan said.

“They took all those steps to help make it happen when we asked.

“This has opened a new dialogue between the city, the county and our organization,” she added. “I’m so grateful to all. They did a great job, and it was a lot of work.”

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at jmcmacken@peninsuladailynews.com

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