County nixes new shelter plan, expands cold-weather refuge

A shelter at the United Church of Christ on Rockefeller Avenue will remain open year-round.

EVERETT — Snohomish County’s plan to use a state grant for a new homeless shelter in Everett is no more.

About $2.4 million from the state’s Shelter Grant Program was earmarked for a new facility that would house 50 to 60 people. Instead, the money will be redistributed to keep open, year-round, a cold weather shelter run by the Everett Gospel Mission at the United Church of Christ, 2624 Rockefeller Ave.

Jackie Anderson, a manager for the county Department of Human Services, said the amendment became necessary as pandemic delays and strict deadlines made it clear the shelter wouldn’t come together.

The county was eyeing a location connected to Volunteers of America to be retrofitted and operated by The Salvation Army, but beds needed to be ready by December 2020, and Jackie Anderson said the permitting process made that impossible.

Out of options for a new location, the county focused on expanding services already being offered.

“The idea for this grant was to bring on more beds that were longer term beds, not the short, seasonal cold weather iterations of shelters,” Jackie Anderson said.

For the 40 people who take refuge at the United Church of Christ from late November until late March, the shuffling funds could mean an extended place to stay.

Sylvia Anderson, CEO of the Everett Gospel Mission, said the nonprofit is well-equipped for the additional responsibility. Mission staff who’ve worked at the shelter since November have agreed to stay on as the additional beds continue to be essential.

“We can’t afford, in this community, to lose even one more bed,” Sylvia Anderson said. “Especially, when we all know we probably need four times what we currently have and we haven’t even been through what evictions will do to this community.”

As of January 2020, the county would have needed about 520 more year-round shelter beds to house the entire local homeless population, the human services department estimated. That’s roughly double what was available at the time.

In total, Snohomish County is receiving more than $4.3 million from the state grant to add sleeping space for those experiencing homelessness. Close to $1 million will be spent on motel room vouchers around the county and another nearly $1 million will fund about 20 individual “pallet” shelters operated by the mission at a location in north Everett.

The grant is expected to result in almost 100 beds funded through June 2023, Jackie Anderson said.

The Everett Gospel Mission will run more than half of the housing once the pallet shelters open. Sylvia Anderson said the expansion will stretch the Mission significantly, but she said they’ve been preparing for the workload and are ready for the challenge.

“There are a lot of folks invested in this succeeding, so our name may be what’s on there, but below our name is a whole bunch of partners who are helping to hold us up,” Sylvia Anderson said.

The county council is scheduled to discuss and act on the shelter grant amendment during its regular meeting on Wednesday.

Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; idavisleonard@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.

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