Mobile showers may not be coming to Sequim

Staff says cost would be expensive and could create additional issues

SEQUIM — After discussion in December about exploring possible sites to host a mobile shower trailer for homeless individuals in Sequim, the city council member who recommended the idea is recommending not moving the proposal forward.

Council member Lowell Rathbun wrote in a Jan. 26 email that after hearing from city staff about possible high costs and liability issues, he is not recommending finding a site for the showers.

At the Dec. 12 council meeting, Rathbun said a committee of nonprofit leaders were struggling to find a location for a mobile shower in the Sequim area, so he made a motion for staff to look into possible city-owned properties. Suggested options included property recently purchased just north of the Sequim Civic Center on West Spruce Street; Gerhardt Park on South Third Avenue, and the city’s former city hall annex at the northeast corner of Sequim Avenue and Spruce Street.

Sequim Public Works Director Sarah VanAusdle sent an email to council members last month, telling them of her findings discussing mobile shower/in-place shower options with Serenity House of Clallam County, Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) and YMCA of Sequim.

In her email, VanAusdle wrote the former administration building would not be suitable because of its proximity to Head Start, that Gerhardt Park would be too far away, and the lot next to the Sequim Civic Center is already being prepped for a new city parking lot.

In her analysis, VanAusdle wrote that other cities deploy mobile shower trailers at fixed encampments and service an existing need in a specific location.

“Creating a service at a venue without an existing population could result in a mobile unit searching in vain for the local demand to justify its existence,” she wrote.

VanAusdle added that it “might create a venue the City is not prepared to deal with” as it would require supervision, utilities, upkeep and other amenities.

She wrote that an alternative to explore on a trial basis would be partnering with Serenity House representatives to drive a passenger van from Sequim to the Port Angeles facility’s showers and offer a bus pass back to Sequim.

Rathbun said he’s reviewed city staff’s responses carefully and that he is not going to propose other options.

“I am convinced that the city staff has done due diligence to my request to investigate this matter and I do not intend to pursue this request any further,” he said.

Rathbun said he regards city staff as “responsible and competent professionals and I respect their judgment.”

“I do not intend to propose any other options, nor do I intend to propose that the city staff look into something else,” he said.

“I personally consider this issue to be a closed matter.”

While Rathbun has rescinded his request, other council members could make their own motions and requests regarding mobile showers, though none have indicated they plan to do so publicly.

Rathbun said the city council is looking to help homelessness efforts by increasing funding this year to $118,000 for the Sequim Health and Housing Collaborative (SHHC).

Agencies include Sequim Food Bank, Healthy Families of Clallam County, OlyCAP, Sequim Free Clinic (Dungeness Valley Health & Wellness Clinic) and Peninsula Behavioral Health.

“The need is great and continues to grow, exceeding their funding capabilities,” Rathbun said.

Since the initial mobile shower discussion, a few people have shared concerns in the council public comment section, in newspapers’ letters to the editor and online, that the showers could bring more homeless people to the area, increase costs to taxpayers and increase crime.

At the Jan. 23 city council meeting, Rathbun said he hears people’s concerns and that “the ultimate answer to all of this is more housing; as quickly as we can get it.”

YMCA of Sequim staff said they do not offer shower passes but do offer facility access to anyone with a photo ID, and if they cannot afford a day use fee or monthly fee, they are able to ask for financial assistance.

Rainshadow Laundry & Car Wash, 143 N. Seventh Ave., continues to offer a pay-for-use shower at its facility between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily, with a required $10 deposit and $5 for the first 15 minutes and $1 for each additional five minutes; the fees pay for use of a bathmat, towel and washcloth included. Soap and shampoo are available for a small fee.

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