A new day center for the homeless is ready to open in Vancouver.
The Vancouver Navigation Center on Grand Boulevard will serve as an access point to gain housing and receive basic services, like showers, laundry, and storage for personal belongings. It also provides homeless people in the area with a place to go inside during the day, when traditional homeless shelters are closed.
“It’s a way that you help people move from the street to housing,” said Peggy Sheehan, Vancouver’s community and economic development programs manager.
The city of Vancouver purchased the former Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife building for $4.3 million in January. The day center will use about 5,000 square feet of the existing 26,000-square-foot building.
The new facility is five times bigger than the current day center in West Vancouver at the Friends of the Carpenter building, which opened in 2015. Sheehan said the city had outgrown the current day center and it was time to look for a more permanent location. Last year, the current day center had to stop offering showers and restroom access to non-residents due to an overtaxed sewage system. The location was also in an area that no longer had access to public transportation after C-Tran discontinued a nearby bus line.
“We needed something more centrally located,” Sheehan said.
The new day center, located off of Fourth Plain Boulevard, will have four showers and restrooms, lockers for personal belongings, mail and phone charging stations, and six sets of washers and dryers, including a commercial laundry machine. The local Humane Society is also donating kennels for dogs and cats.
The multi-pronged approach brought together the city of Vancouver, homeless service providers, Clark County, and more than $400,000 from private donors.
Clark County experienced a 39 percent increase in homelessness between 2017 and 2018, according to the annual point-in-time homeless count.
“This is serious business and this means we’re taking it seriously,” said Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle. “We want to make a difference that changes what we’re seeing on our streets.”
McEnerny-Ogle said addressing the city’s homeless problem has been a priority for the Council and credits the community support for getting this project finished in less than a year.
“In a short amount of time, we’ve come from an idea to this,” she said.
The city of Vancouver will operate the shelter with Share, a local nonprofit that runs a men’s shelter in downtown Vancouver.
“We have an extremely amazing collaborative system that’s hyper-focused on housing as a priority,” said Olivia Resnick, Share’s housing first director and the director of the new day center.
Resnick said the new day center will play a big role as a one-stop shop for services. Staff will be available to provide housing and employment assistance, substance abuse and mental health counseling.
“The more that we can provide services and supports, then the closer we are to ending homelessness,” Resnick said.
The center will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting Monday, Nov. 19.