Salvation Army majors Sabrina and John Tumey plan to cease overnight shelter operations at the organization's new community service center at Second and Peabody streets in Port Angeles. Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

Salvation Army majors Sabrina and John Tumey plan to cease overnight shelter operations at the organization's new community service center at Second and Peabody streets in Port Angeles. Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

Salvation Army to close overnight shelter, leaving gap for homeless

PORT ANGELES — The Salvation Army will close its shelter at 123 S. Peabody St. on Oct. 1, leaving no overnight shelter in the downtown area for the city’s homeless.

The organization has been operating the shelter since Serenity House closed its Second Street shelter doors in February due to budget deficits and a sewer line collapse.

Using the Salvation Army facility as a shelter was “never supposed to be a long-term solution,” said Maj. Sabrina Tumey, who took over the Port Angeles operation on July 1 with her husband, Maj. John Tumey.

“It doesn’t lend itself to being both a shelter and a feeding facility.”

The facility had been sheltering about 20 people a night. Tumey said that more recently, the number has decreased to 15-to-17 nightly.

In addition to the closure, two full-time shelter employees will be laid off on Oct. 1.

Once the Salvation Army shelter closes, the only overnight facility for homeless is Serenity House’s Single Adult Shelter at 2321 W. 18th St. on the west side of town.

That shelter has space to accommodate the Salvation Army homeless, said Executive Director Kim Leach. It can house house about 15 men and four to six women per night.

“We do have space and we are open,” said Leach, but only at the 18th Street facility.

The problem is that the 18th Street facility is not close to Port Angeles’ downtown where homeless tend to congregate, so transportation could be an issue, she said.

The Salvation Army has two buildings on Peabody Street: its original building at 206 S. Peabody St., and a former auto parts store at 123 S. Peabody St., which celebrated its grand opening in June.

The newer facility had been renovated to serve as the agency’s social service center and provide an expanded space for its food programs, but was used as an overnight shelter.

The Salvation Army originally opened a shelter at 206 S. Peabody St., in response to the Serenity House closing.

Because of permitting issues with the city of Port Angeles, the overnight shelter was moved across the street to the new building.

The city granted the organization final approval for a feeding operation and shelter there in the last month, said Nathan West, the city director of community development.

Tumey said the Salvation Army wants to work with other organizations to see what can be done to shelter the homeless overnight.

“I don’t know what the answer is at this point,” she said.

Maj. Bill Dickinson, the Salvation Army divisional leader for Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana, said that the cost of converting the Peabody Street facility to a shelter was a factor in the decision.

Dickinson said the decision came from the organization’s Command Finance Council, which provides direction to Salvation Army facilities in Washington and other Pacific Northwest states.

He agreed that it was never intended to be a long-term shelter; it was intended to be a feeding and social services facility.

The new building includes a food bank and a dining area for breakfast and lunch, Monday through Friday.

Feeding and social services are expected to continue, including after-school tutoring programs for youth and teens.

Dickinson said the Oct. 1 date was chosen so the Port Angeles staff would have several weeks to transition homeless in the shelter to other facilities.

The Salvation Army is aware, Tumey said, that closing the shelter could mean more homeless will camp outdoors in the adjacent Peabody Creek ravine or a block away at Webster Park on Second and Eunice streets.

Tumey said her staff has been talking with homeless at the shelter about finding other places to go besides outdoor public spaces.

Port Angeles Deputy Chief Brian Smith said it was “hard to say” what the impact the closure would have on his department’s work.

The Port Angeles Police Department regularly patrols parks and ravines such as Peabody Creek and Webster Park, he said, and comes across debris and encampments.

As Port Angeles’ weather does not tend to be cold or severe, his department does not generally play in role in getting homeless off the street when the weather gets bad, he said.

If it gets bad this winter, Tumey said she was willing to be a part of a conversation about emergency winter shelters.

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Reporter Mark Swanson can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5054, or [email protected]

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