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Downtown homeless center being forced out

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WENATCHEE — A downtown homeless shelter has to find a new location fast or close down by the end of the month.

PowerHouse Ministry Center, 30 N. Wenatchee Ave., was notified last week by its landlord that it must stop offering services and day shelter for the homeless and indigent by Feb. 28. The Shalom Church, which also holds services in the building on Sundays, can remain.

I’m not angry at our landlord,” said Pastor Dave Kleinfeldt, director of the ministry center. “He’s endured much criticism for the last two years.”

Building owner Korey Rosvold said this morning that the homeless center is interfering too much with surrounding businesses and that some are threatening to move from the downtown area.

I rented my building to the Shalom Church,” he said. “PowerHouse Ministry Center came after. Our original deal wasn’t for that kind of operation to be in there. It’s turned into something it was never intended to be.”

Rosvold said the center provides a good community service, “But it’s the wrong location for that type of operation downtown. … It’s ruining the quiet enjoyment for Cycle Center and other businesses in the area.”

The center has been the center of controversy for more than a year, after downtown businesses began complaining about conflicts with people visiting the center. Though the center opened in late 2011, the number of people going there rose sharply in early 2013, largely because of new services being added.

Stores’ owners, employees and customers have complained of homeless people loitering downtown, wandering into businesses and bothering people or using restrooms, smoking near doorways and outdoor eating areas, getting into arguments and physical fights, stealing from businesses, exposing themselves in public, urinating and defecating on streets and sidewalks, and sleeping on sidewalks, in alleys or in cars.

Kleinfeldt said the center staff tried to diffuse the situation and agreed to a number of suggested changes, including patrolling the streets and alleys for people causing problems. Wenatchee police were scheduled to give a workshop next week for downtown business owners and center staff on how to de-escalate a conflict.

Kleinfeldt acknowledged that neighboring businesses do not want the center there. So he has been looking for a new location for several months. He said last week that he has, so far, been unsuccessful in finding a location that is large enough and would not need significant remodeling.

Now he is hoping that a landlord or building owner will step forward before the end of the month to offer them space to rent.

We would love to close our doors on Friday the 28th and reopen at a new location the next Monday,” he said.

If that doesn’t happen, the homeless day shelter will close until a new location is found.

If that happens, there will be a lot of people out looking for a place to be during the day and looking for help,” Kleinfeldt said. “I imagine a lot of them will go to the library to hang out.”

He said he likes the downtown location for the ministry center, but doesn’t want to be a bad neighbor anymore.

I think it’s time,” he said of the forced move. “I would love to stay here. … The building is really good, it’s really laid out well for our ministry center. But I think that most people want us to go. We would like to not have the hassle anymore. We don’t want to bother anyone.”

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

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