More space, beds needed in men's shelter

PASCO -- Tri-City Union Gospel Mission officials are trying to find more space for men needing a place to sleep before the cold winter increases the demand beyond what the mission's shelter can accommodate.

Andrew Porter, the mission's assistant executive director, said the normal decrease in demand for beds at the men's shelter didn't happen during spring and summer.

The shelter has housed 95 or more men a night, with a recent night seeing 103 men, he said.

That means all 45 beds are full and all available floor space is being used.

About 100 men is the most the mission can fit in the shelter, Porter said.

But Porter said it still is anticipating a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in need at the men's shelter when winter hits. That's more people than the men's shelter has room for.

"If it gets more than 100, we are looking at possibly having to turn people away," he said.

That's something the mission hasn't done before at the shelter, Porter said.

Part of the increase in need comes from the lack of affordable housing in the Tri-Cities, he said. Apartment occupancy rates in the Tri-Cities have hovered around 99 percent.

Some people have lost benefits they used to receive through Disability Lifeline, Porter said.

The state program, which was called General Assistance Unemployable, helps low-income adults who can't work for 90 days or more because of a physical or mental impairment.

That is one program that has been slashed during state budget reductions. Gov. Chris Gregoire ordered 6.3 percent across-the-board reductions at state agencies after the September forecast showed another $520 million drop in revenue for the remainder of the biennium ending June 30.

The Disability Lifeline program had $20.3 million cut from medical coverage as part of those cuts.

The state Department of Social and Health Services announced last month that the typical amount of cash those in the Disability Lifeline program receive will be reduced from $339 per month to $258, starting Jan. 1.

Porter said mission officials are hoping a church near the mission would be willing to offer a multipurpose room or gym for the men to sleep in.

They would like to find space nearby so transportation isn't a barrier.