WENATCHEE — Wenatchee will have another tool in its belt to serve the homeless population come January.
The city council unanimously approved a two-year contract with Wenatchee Rescue Mission on Thursday for 20 low-barrier shelter beds for adult men, which will bring the shelter to 70 beds. Five of those beds will be reserved for police referrals from Wenatchee and East Wenatchee.
“We’re not done yet. We need more and we know that,” Councilmember Linda Herald said at the meeting. “It’s gonna help our police department and give them one more tool — and hopefully we can get some of these people off the streets.”
The two cities had 98 homeless individuals, not counting those sheltering in vehicles, during a point-in-time count in July, meaning the cities will still need to pursue other options to fully serve the homeless population.
“We’re very excited to start this. My hope is to increase those beds,” Wenatchee Rescue Mission Executive Director Scott Johnson said during the council meeting. “A lot of people think this is a solution. We’re not going to get everyone. But my goal is to take a big chunk and get as many as I can.”
The $100,000 contract, which will be split into monthly payments, will be paid for primarily through a one-tenth of 1% sales tax the cities of Wenatchee and East Wenatchee passed earlier this year to fund housing projects. The two cities recently agreed to pool the funds from those taxes, with Wenatchee acting with fiduciary responsibility.
Wenatchee Rescue Mission, 1450 S. Wenatchee Ave., will operate its shelter beds 24/7. Onsite case management to help individuals find permanent housing will likely be provided through Catholic Charities.
“Many times, it’s just a regular, continual contact with somebody who can help them,” Mayor Frank Kuntz said of case management during the meeting. “If it’s a no the first 74 times and if it’s a yes on the 75th time, we’ve had success.”
Wenatchee Rescue Mission is the first shelter the city has certified as low-barrier, said Community Development Director Glen DeVries. The city’s low-barrier certification form is based on guidelines from the Washington State Department of Commerce and includes questions about whether the program accepts individuals regardless of religious participation, drug use, income and sexual orientation.
DeVries said the city will reach out to other shelters like Gospel House to see if they are interested in the certification. Until a shelter is formally certified as low-barrier, though, it can’t be counted toward the number of beds the cities need to enforce trespassing and camping laws, which would be based on the most recent point-in-time count.
“The solution to move people out of homelessness and get them stable and get them into permanent housing is something that the city on its own can't solve,” DeVries said. “It has to be done through partnerships and through a variety of resources.”