Vancouver City Council members look at options for reopening the Navigation Center


Four options on the table through proposed partnership with Catholic Community services of Western Washington

VANCOUVER —  At this week’s Vancouver City Council meeting, council members heard proposals for reopening the city’s Navigation Center as soon as is feasible under the restrictions from COVID-19.

Four different operating scenarios were submitted by the Parks and Recreation Department to reopen and operate the center in partnership with Catholic Community Services of Western Washington (CCS).

The Vancouver Navigation Center is located along Grand Boulevard and was in the process of changing management pre-COVID-19. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Vancouver Navigation Center is located along Grand Boulevard and was in the process of changing management pre-COVID-19. Photo by Mike Schultz

“We tweaked a little bit on some of our proposals that were originally submitted, we have two new challenges that we’re trying to understand,” said Parks and Recreation Director Julie Hannon. “As we get more information, we’ll have to again, if we move forward in the future, tweak some of those.”

Prior to the pandemic, the center moved under the full responsibility of the city, after Share Vancouver pulled out. The selection process of a new operating partner had begun and was well underway when stay-at-home orders and social distancing went into place.

Before the project was put on pause, however, city staff had evaluated their top choice: CCS.  Staff went and toured a facility known as Nativity House, run by CCS in Tacoma, and were impressed by the operations there.

“That facility is multifaceted. It involves an approximately 160 person, overnight emergency shelter. It has transitional housing apartments in the same campus, as well as a day facility that, pre-COVID, served meals for up to 500 individuals a day,” said Dave Perlick, recreation manager with Vancouver. “The staff that participated were represented by the city manager’s office and the Vancouver Police department. We’re very impressed.”

Right now, the center is still closed and the only service still being offered at the center is mail pick-up for those still receiving mail at the center. Photo by Mike Schultz
Right now, the center is still closed and the only service still being offered at the center is mail pick-up for those still receiving mail at the center. Photo by Mike Schultz

Now, with the contract process soon to begin again, there are two new challenges facing the city in the operation of the center. Number one is adhering to CDC guidance with regards to social distancing, while number two is the impacts of city-wide budget reductions.

“Not only physical distancing, but dealing with belongings and possessions and also showering, and some pretty serious facility issues that need some extra sanitation when multiple people are using them,” Hannon said. “We’re still looking at those items and trying to understand where those [budget] reductions might be or if they’re going to be in the future at all. Some of our conversations with CCS, we tweaked some options just to give the city council some other potential ideas for the future.”

The four options listed by staff were as follows:

  1. A yearly budget of about $580,000, with the center operating five days a week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with less than 50 guests.
  2. A yearly budget of about $668,000, with the center operating seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with still less than 50 guests.
  3. A yearly budget of about $904,000, with the center operating seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with more than 50 guests.
  4. A yearly budget of about $1.3 million, with the center operating seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with still more than 50 guests.    

Once open, the center will again provide shelter, bathrooms, showers, and laundry facilities to the homeless and those in need. Counseling services were not actively operating pre-COVID and are not currently included in any of the four plans moving forward.  

Other considerations and the long term vision for the shelter still includes staff and resources for an 80 bed transitional shelter and a Homeless Action Response Team (HART).

“It’d be 90 days between the contract approval and the time we could open up the Navigation Center to bring on staff and get the facility ready,” Hannon said. “It would take CCS about 90 days from the time the council approves the contract, and they’re still depending on your guidance with many details to work out.”

Due to some technical difficulties with the Zoom call format of the council meeting, closing remarks from council members were brief but included ideas from each.

“I like the idea of postponing it to June 1, I personally would like to see that shelter turn into a women and children shelter, perhaps something overnight,” said Councilor Bart Hansen. “I think it needs to transition into something else.”

“I think what the pandemic has shown us as well, with the closure of the facility, I think we really need partnership with the county,” said Councilor Ty Stober. “I think that’s my primary focus right now. How do we advance a conversation with the county so that there is true partnership here.”

Councilors Linda Glover, Sarah Fox, Erik Paulsen and Laurie Lebowsky largely echoed the sentiments of their colleagues with the addition that a broader constituency was crucial and that having new leadership for the center in place first would be helpful.

Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle concluded the meeting with a request to reconvene the joint meeting between the council and the Clark County Council, which was originally scheduled for April 15. The consensus was to pause any reopening plans in favor of reengaging with the county on a joint understanding of addressing homelessness.

Right now, the only service still being offered at the center is mail pick-up for those still receiving mail at the center. Mail pick-up times are from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesday and Thursdays.

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