The group that’s run Yakima’s homeless camp since March is on track to open a winter shelter, although an exact location has not been announced.
A committee recommended Tuesday that Transform Yakima receive $135,000 to run a combined overnight and daytime warming shelter in Yakima, along with an overnight shelter in Sunnyside to serve the Lower Valley.
The recommendations by a Yakima Valley Conference of Governments committee now go to the agency’s executive committee on Monday for final approval, though at this time there is no indication that members there will make a different choice.
While the building in which Transform Yakima had planned to house the Yakima shelter was sold last week, the faith-based organization is negotiating to secure another building, director Andy Ferguson said Tuesday. A backup option, while less preferred, is also in place, he said.
Finding a suitable building has been “an extreme challenge,” he said, with several options falling through once someone finds out the building is being considered for use as a shelter.
The new proposed site, which was inspected by the city on Monday, is on the First Street corridor, but Ferguson declined to give an exact address to avoid the “firestorm” that happens when neighbors learn a shelter will be going in nearby.
It and the backup option require some minor safety upgrades, he said, including smoke detectors and exit signs.
“And on our preferred site, we’re negotiating use and access with the other tenants in the building. I’d say it’s going well,” Ferguson said. “But it’s certainly not a done deal.”
Option 2 is secured, he said. “We could move forward with that one; it’s not as nice,” in terms of size, number of available rooms and quality of the kitchen.
The goal with hosting an overnight and daytime warming shelter in the same place is to have “the least interruption to clients possible,” Ferguson said, responding to the needs expressed by residents of Transform Yakima’s Camp Hope homeless encampment. Residents also want to be able to keep their pets with them.
Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, which ran the shelters the past two years in partnership with several local churches, was not recommended by the subcommittee, known as the Homeless Planning and Policy Council.
Neighborhood Health, along with the Northwest Community Action Center, will instead manage hotel/motel vouchers again.
When the council’s scoring subcommittee evaluated and scored the various applications to run shelter services this winter, Neighborhood Health and Transform Yakima were “really close,” said Joan Davenport, community development director for the city of Yakima and a member of the scoring committee.
Transform Yakima ultimately won out because of its lower per-bed cost, its plans for a shelter in Yakima and in Sunnyside, and its proposal to offer a joint overnight and daytime warming shelter, which has not been offered in the past, Davenport said.
YVCOG received eight responses to its request-for-proposal, seeking $514,000 in funding when the agency only has $200,000 available to award.
“It was a super tough process,” Davenport said.
Neighborhood Health was awarded $45,000 to go toward hotel/motel vouchers, while Northwest Community Action Center, a program under Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, was awarded $20,000.