Port Townsend shelter to be open year-round

PORT TOWNSEND — Port Townsend’s shelter for those with nowhere to go for the night soon will be open year-round but will function differently, requiring guests to be clean and sober, providing services and housing fewer people than the present winter shelter.

“We’re more of a drop-in shelter in the winter to get people out of the cold,” said Kathy Morgan, the housing director for Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP), about the present shelter, which will close April 1 after opening in mid-November.

“In this [extended] shelter, we’re surrounding these people with services and trying to get them into permanent housing,” Morgan said.

The winter shelter, which has operated during the colder months for more than a decade, is co-managed by the Community Outreach Association Shelter Team (COAST) and OlyCAP.

OlyCAP will be solely responsible for the year-round shelter, which will be in the same place as the winter shelter in the lower level of the American Legion Hall at 209 Monroe St. in Port Townsend.

“COAST just can’t go beyond the five months they already serve,” Morgan said. “We do plan to re-partner with them next winter for the winter shelter.”

The extended shelter, dubbed Shelter Plus, is expected to open April 10.

“This action is in response to widespread community concern that dwindling affordable housing resources [are] leaving more and more Jefferson County residents without housing and in need of temporary shelter throughout the entire year, not just during the winter months,” said Dale Wilson, OlyCAP executive director, in a news release.

The shelter will initially operate every day from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., the same hours as the winter shelter. Veterans, the elderly, victims of violence and people with a cognitive or physical disabilities will be given priority.

“We’re focusing on the most vulnerable populations,” Morgan said.

The shelter will downsize its nightly population. Due to high demand, the winter shelter often houses over 40 people per night, which Morgan said is a lot of people for the small space. Shelter Plus will house about 26 per night.

When OlyCAP takes over, it will implement the new requirements of Shelter Plus, requiring all guests to be clean and sober, Morgan said. They also will be required to participate in programs to help them find more permanent affordable housing options.

“It is unfortunate that some homeless residents are living with uncontrolled substance abuse disorder and may not be able to continue to stay at the shelter during this extended period,” Wilson said in a news release.

“However, anyone unable to reside at the shelter will be provided the reason for denial and referral to other resources that might help them secure alternative shelter or achieve future eligibility for Plus services.”

Shelter Plus will be supported by OlyCAP; Jefferson County Homeless Funds, which are derived from property transfer fees and have been designated for homeless services; and donations from the community.

County commissioners discussed the lack of affordable housing March 13 after representatives of OlyCAP and COAST expressed fears about finding funding for the shelter this coming winter in the face of potential federal and state budget cuts.

The director of COAST, deForest Walker, said housing for low-income people is nonexistent in Port Townsend.

Commissioner David Sullivan said at the time that it was unfair to put all the burden on nonprofits.

OlyCAP officials plan a 2 p.m. Monday news conference at their administrative offices, 823 Commerce Loop Drive, to discuss the shelter and answer questions.

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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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