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Businesses raise concerns over downtown center that serves homeless

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WENATCHEE — Downtown business owners will appeal to city officials tonight to stop allowing a center that serves the homeless and others to operate in the central business district.

The number of homeless people coming downtown to visit the PowerHouse Center, 30 N. Wenatchee Ave., has led to increased conflicts with businesses and their customers, said Linda Haglund, executive director of the Wenatchee Downtown Association.

We want to be sensitive to what this ministry is trying to do to help the homeless,” Haglund said. “The difficult part is locating it downtown. … It’s a good ministry. It just doesn’t fit where it is.”

PowerHouse was intended as “a drop-in center for the poor, the addicted and the homeless,” Samuel Detwiler, lead pastor of Shalom Church of Wenatchee, wrote in a November 2011 column in The Wenatchee World. “We will not be an overnight shelter or offer regular meals, because Wenatchee already has other ministries for these needs.”

The center — wenatcheepowerhouse.com — offers coffee, clothing and other services for the homeless between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Center coordinator Dave Kleinfeldt declined to comment this morning. He said he would like to hear the business owners’ concerns at the meeting tonight before commenting.

In the 2011 column, Detwiler acknowledged, “Because we are located downtown, concerns might be raised by downtown businesses about our presence. We want to be an asset to the downtown, and we will work with any specific concern or complaint raised by a business.”

The City Council is meeting in a workshop tonight to discuss a number of items, including city code updates. A number of business owners are expected to attend the meeting at 5:15 p.m. at City Hall to ask that downtown codes be changed to not allow services like the homeless center.

She said complaints from business owners include people urinating and defecating in the entry ways to their stores, more people sleeping in doorways and alcoves or in their cars after the shelter closes for the night at 9 p.m., and homeless people coming in to businesses but not to buy things.

Who we’re seeing downtown is different than we’ve ever seen,” she said.

The City Council is expected to have a discussion but not take action at tonight’s meeting. It may give city staff some direction on possible code changes that would come back to the Council at a later time for approval, said Allison Williams, the city’s executive services director.

Williams also said that a committee that makes recommendations on how state funds to address homelessness in Chelan and Douglas counties should be spent will meet next week to talk, in part, about the downtown merchants’ concerns.

Michelle McNiel: 664-7152

Reach Michelle McNiel at 509-664-7152 or . Follow her on Twitter at @MichelMcNielWW.

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