Franklin commissioners OK human services pacts

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldMarch 20, 2013 

Franklin County commissioners on Wednesday approved a handful of agreements with local agencies that provide services to the homeless -- but one approval came with a string from one commissioner.

Commissioner Brad Peck said his vote in favor of money for Therapeutic Innovations & Recovery, which operates a drop-in day shelter in Kennewick, was conditioned on the shelter finding a new location.

Peck said at a previous meeting that he had been contacted by a Franklin County resident who owns a business on West Clearwater Avenue near the shelter and who said the shelter was disrupting nearby businesses.

Ed Thornbrugh, director of the Department of Human Services, the bicounty agency overseeing the homeless funding agreements, said the shelter already is searching for a new spot using money awarded by Benton County.

"The agreement with Benton County allows the day shelter to move to a more appropriate location," Thornbrugh said.

"So you're confident they're acting in good faith and will move to a location where they're not harming surrounding businesses?" Peck said. "I'm going to proceed on your word that they're going to make a real effort to improve the situation."

Steve Gaulke, the shelter's director, told the Herald by phone Wednesday that he believes the problems already have been resolved, and that he'd be looking for a new location anyway because the shelter is serving more than double the number of people originally anticipated.

Supporters of the shelter initially thought they would see 20 people per day dropping in to take showers, do laundry, use a computer or get connected to services.

But they've been serving an average of 50 people per day since August, and that's more than the 1,600-square-foot space is designed for, Gaulke said.

Therapeutic Innovations officials are looking at a few possible locations and talking to Kennewick planning officials about zoning, Gaulke said.

He added that he's only aware of one business owner who had any complaint -- related to people smoking outside and parking cars overnight -- and believes that complaint has been addressed.

"We have had good communication," Gaulke said. "We're making sure everything is OK with any issue they might have concern with."

The agreement approved unanimously by Franklin commissioners Wednesday gives Therapeutic Innovations about $26,000 to use toward providing services to homeless Franklin County citizens.

Other agreements approved Wednesday were $23,000 for the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition, $49,000 for Community Action Connections and $27,000 for Domestic Violence Services of Benton and Franklin Counties. Although not all of the programs are located in Franklin County, they serve county residents.

-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @mduplertch

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