Olympic Community Action Program will receive $5.5 million from the Washington State Department of Commerce to fund construction of a single-room occupancy, permanent shelter at the Caswell-Brown …
Olympic Community Action Program will receive $5.5 million from the Washington State Department of Commerce to fund construction of a single-room occupancy, permanent shelter at the Caswell-Brown Village in Port Townsend. Organizers said the goal is to break ground as soon as possible and open the shelter by late summer 2024.
Facing increased rent at the current shelter space and acknowledging the need for a longer-term solution, OlyCAP started planning for a permanent congregate shelter more than two years ago.
“This village is a unique design that allows for lower operations cost by combining shelter services at one location.” said Cherish Cronmiller, executive director of OlyCAP. Rural areas struggle for operating dollars for emergency and supportive housing, by combining populations at one site, there is a cost savings.
Jefferson County committed funds to purchase the parcels of land off Mill Road and committed stimulus funding to providing critical infrastructure at the Open-Air Shelter site. Special COVID community services block grant money has helped pay for operating expenses at the open air shelter, according to OlyCAP.
Jefferson County entered into a 43-year lease with OlyCAP granting the nonprofit control of the site and the ability to apply for funding to build the new shelter.
Predevelopment and project management has been done through the Office of Rural & Farmworker Housing and architectural design is by SMR Architects. More than $150,000 has been spent in predevelopment costs to get the project through the application process.
Washington Commerce acknowledged that the proposed project responded to a lack of shelter space in the county.
The shelter will have a minimum of 24 emergency beds for persons who need temporary shelter before they find transitional or permanent housing. There will be 13 private rooms for permanent supportive housing. These rooms are for people who need to live in a congregate shelter environment that offers 24-hour-a-day monitoring.
Several people have been calling the emergency shelter in the basement of the Port Townsend American Legion home for years. The new shelter is meant to provide permanent supportive housing with the benefit of private space; a door people can close when they go to bed at night.
The shelter will have three emergency family rooms, with their own entrances and bathrooms.
“There’s an unseen crisis of families breaking up,” Cronmiller said, when parents lose their housing.
Children are often sent to live with other relatives, she said, while the parents sleep in cars, emergency shelters, tents, or other improvised accommodations.
Two common rooms have been included in the design that could also be used to shelter people on cots in the event of an emergency.
The facility will have a commercial kitchen that will be used by other organizations to provide meals to residents of the shelter and village, and will be available for residents to use for simple meal preparations.
It was just a year ago that Cronmiller made a presentation to the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners on the phased approach for the Mill Road property.
“I was confident that the agency would be competitive in acquiring funding to bring this project to fruition,” she said. “Washington Commerce was critical in providing the money for the 7th Haven project and now they have come through for Caswell-Brown Village.”
“We intend to make Commerce proud of their selections for Jefferson County. Residents of this county should be impressed with the commitments made by the county and commerce to make a tangible difference in housing the unsheltered in this community,” Cronmiller added.
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