The Seattle native says he was struggling to bring his family to Vancouver
VANCOUVER — Just six months after arriving as Vancouver’s first homeless resource manager, Jackie St. Louis is stepping down.
In an email to staff, City Manager Eric Holmes said St. Louis was having difficulty relocating his family from the Puget Sound area, and made the decision to move back there instead. His final day with the city is Feb. 14.
“I appreciate Jackie’s contributions to the City’s efforts to establish a homeless resources program,” Holmes wrote. “During his remaining time with the City, he will remain focused on securing a new operator for the navigation center as well as standing up the Homeless Assistance Response Team (HART).”
The city is in a transition period around the navigation center, with Share notifying them last December that they would cease running operations at the day center on Jan. 31.
St. Louis has spearheaded several changes at the navigation center, including closing off a covered area outside, creating a single point of entry with keycard access, and implementing a new code of conduct.
Vancouver Parks and Recreation employees have been supplementing Share staff at the facility for the past month or so, and city spokesperson Carol Bua says the city will take over full operations as of Feb. 1.
“The city will continue daily operations and the outside service providers currently serving Navigation Center clients will also continue to provide services,” Bua wrote.
A search for potential new operators has revealed at least half a dozen interested organizations. They attended a mandatory pre-bid meeting and tour of the navigation center last week. The deadline to submit proposals is Jan. 29.
St. Louis came to the city from Seattle where he worked in the city’s Homelessness Division. Following his departure, St. Louis made it clear that his goals for the homelessness crisis didn’t line up with the city’s vision.
Vancouver City Councilor Linda Glover says she doesn’t believe St. Louis had similar frustrations here.
“I’ve had a conversation with him about how challenging this has been to travel back and forth and not being home with his kids as much as he was,” Glover told Clark County Today. “He’s very much a homebody, very dedicated to his family. So I think that was uncomfortable.”
Glover says she has great respect for the work St. Louis did during his time in Vancouver, and hopes they can continue to build on the outline he created.
“I’m disappointed for the city and I’m disappointed for him, because I know it’s something he’s put a lot of work into,” says Glover. “People connected to him very quickly.”
At the time of this publication St. Louis has declined to comment. Glover says she believes he has left a good blueprint for whoever takes over the homeless resource manager position.
“I think he’s probably given us a little bit more knowledge,” she said. “You know this has been fast tracked, we’ve really had to pick up on the information, to learn as quickly as we can. And I think he’s helped us to feel confident in some of the plans laid out.”
Not everyone feels confident, though. Laura Lindeman, who lives near the navigation center and has been active in asking the city to clean up the area, says initial optimism after recent changes has given way to renewed concern as neighbors see more loitering and open drug use.
“I had hope with Jackie and until Wednesday night I guess I didn’t realize how much I was depending on his no nonsense, responsible approach to resolve what the city and Share had done to our community through their experiment called the Navigation center,” Lindeman wrote to Clark County Today. “I feel like we just took a giant step backwards and while I had hoped we could come to a place where we could coexist with our homeless neighbors I now feel like this center needs to close.”
According to information handed out at a recent good neighbor meeting, Share is seeing daily traffic at the navigation center rising steadily, from around 140 in mid-November, to around 200 in recent weeks.
Lindeman says Holmes has proposed an annual operating budget of $200,000 for the day center. Far less than what St. Louis had asked for in order to open a bridge shelter at the facility.
“That is absurd,” Lindeman says. “This is not McDonald’s, this is a facility created to combat the drug, mental health and homeless crisis blanketing our city and Eric Holmes after telling me homelessness in Vancouver is their number one priority offers up 200k to resolve Vancouver’s no. 1 priority? Really?”
Note: Clark County Today has reached out to other elected officials in the city and will update this story with their responses as necessary.