Share notified the city late last week that it will stop operating a day center inside the Grand Boulevard building at the end of January
VANCOUVER — The city of Vancouver is looking for someone to take over day-to-day operations at their new Homeless Navigation Center on Grand Boulevard near Fourth Plain.
“Share has notified the city that, as of January 31, 2020, they will no longer serve as the Navigation Center operator,” wrote Vancouver’s Homeless Outreach Coordinator Jackie St. Louis in a letter to community members. “We’d like to thank Share for their work over the past year at the day center and we will continue to work together in the future on our shared goal of helping to address the needs of our community.”
The withdrawal of Share from operations at the day center follows the release of a report by Alpha Project, a homeless outreach group based in San Diego, which expressed a negative view of how the day center is being run.
The city contracted with Alpha Project following backlash from the public near the Navigation Center over concerns that it was causing an increase in crime and drug abuse in the area.
“It is unclear that the City has an operator for the connected Day Center, Housing Navigation
Center and Temporary Bridge Shelter with the demonstrated capacity, experience and
philosophy required to achieve the change desired in how the Day Center is operated and
managed, as well as its impact on the neighborhood,” wrote Alpha Project President Bob McElroy in that report.
The report noted that, during a visit to the day center, there was “virtually no control over access to the facility, little client engagement, and an absence of any social modeling to shape and control client conduct.”
The report also noted that “Alpha Project believes it is important for the City to set the bar higher for its funded programs and contractors and for those programs and contractors to recognize the difference between low barriers and no barriers.”
At a council work session in July, Share’s Deputy Director Amy Reynolds said the organization believes the “low barrier” approach to the Navigation Center represents current best practices in responding to homelessness.
“Often people who don’t have as many barriers are able to move faster through the system,” said Reynolds at that meeting, “and the people who remain homeless and cost the system the most have a multitude of issues, and creating high barrier systems excludes them from getting any help and just leaves the police to be able to work that population.”
But the Alpha Project report indicated the city needs to better differentiate “low barrier” and “no barrier” for homeless services.
“Alpha Project was founded on the principle of caring so much about people experiencing homelessness that the organization will not be complicit in the causes and consequences of homelessness,” the report reads. “Recognizing the difference between acceptance and enabling ensures that programs serving the homeless do not contribute to people dying on the streets.”
In a statement provided to Clark County Today, Diane McWithey, Share’s executive director, said recent changes have made it impossible for the nonprofit to “both keep true to our values and processes, as well as meet the expectations of the City.”
“In keeping with our mission and vision, Share will continue to serve the community through our shelters, Share Outreach, ASPIRE, Lincoln Place, the Backpack and Fresh Food Pantries and many other programs,” McWithey continued. “Staff work will remain focused on engaging and advocating for people experiencing homelessness to secure permanent housing, by linking them with housing opportunities, developing budgets, completing applications and assisting them in telling their story with local landlords.”
McWithey says Share notified the city about its intention to exit the Navigation Center in mid-October, and notified staff members last Friday. There are nine Share employees who work at the Navigation Center. They will move to other Share programs, McWithey said, or receive severance packages.
Changes coming for Navigation Center
In addition to the city opening a search for a new operator for the day center inside the Navigation Center, St. Louis said there are other changes coming to the facility, slated to take effect as of November 11.
Of most immediate impact will be a full top-to-bottom cleaning inside the day center, requiring the shelter to clos