Round three: Homeless shelter vs. Charleston

The story isn’t getting any sweeter for Bremerton’s concerned Charleston residents after Catholic Community Services hosted its third public meeting about its plans to place a homeless shelter in the neighborhood.

Sister Pat Millen, the family center developer for CCS, gave a PowerPoint presentation that explained why the shelter is needed and why the Charleston neighborhood is highlighted as the best location, and the seven residents present were given a chance to express their concerns.

Millen handed out literature about how they chose the site at Cambrian Avenue and Rogers Street at the meeting.

Currently, there is no shelter in Kitsap County for an estimated 230 homeless men.

“A total of eight to 10 sites were considered in some fashion,” Millen’s document said.

At earlier meetings, residents complained heatedly and said the shelter should be located downtown, closer to food shelters and transportation resources.

According to Beverly Kincaid, grants manager for Catholic Community Services, the Max Hale Center on Pacific Avenue and a 2,300 square foot building at 830 6th St. owned by the Salvation Army were top considerations.

“The Max Hale Center has the space but the city was intent in not having a facility for homeless men in downtown Bremerton. We thought we should honor that with the redevelopment efforts under way.”

Kincaid said she didn’t contact the city directly, but “that’s been our assumption that they didn’t want a shelter for homeless men downtown.”

Another consideration was the vacant building on Sixth Street next to Monica’s Social Club, a bar.

“Being next to a bar is not a good place to put homeless men,” Kincaid said. “That’s a no-brainer.”

Additionally, Maj. Jim Baker at the Salvation Army said they plan to move their food bank into that space in approximately three months, so it is no longer an option.

Another location surveyed by CCS was the Capital Hill Fire Station, near Charleston’s Forest Ridge Park.

Costs were too high to renovate that location.

In November of 2002, Habitat for Humanity of Kitsap County offered CCS a lot it owned for free at Cambrian and Rodgers if the group agreed to build a shelter within five years.

Currently, Catholic Community Services has submitted a special use permit to the planning department at the city of Bremerton, and will host a public hearing on the matter in March, according to Pat Millen.

The hearing examiner will decide on whether the building can be built in its propoed location after listening to public testimony.

Community Develpment director Chris Hugo said a date has not been set for the meeting.

Still, several vocal residents continue to express their disbelief that their neighborhood is the best choice. They say CCS is holding meetings as a formality.

“I feel the meeting was totally contrived,” said neighbor Athena Higgins, referring to the third meeting on Monday, Jan. 26. “There were several people from the neighborhood but everyone else was from Catholic Community Services. It was very one-sided.”

Higgins bought a house with her husband Jim on Summit Avenue six years ago.

Higgins said she got a phone call the night before the meeting, inviting her. She wanted to have more notice, including door-to-door fliers, so the meeting would have the larger attendance of the previous two meetings.

The Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) of Kitsap County facilitated the meeting, helping both sides express themselves.

“What we attempted to do was to identify common ground,” said Hank Keaton, DRC executive director.

The DRC mediators are trained to help disputing sides acknowledge each other’s needs and wants and work towards a solution.

In the second meeting hosted by CCS on Nov. 17, residents categorized their concerns, such as their fear property values might depreciate, and the shelter is not suitable for a single-family residential neighborhood, the homeless men might be urinating on or littering the neighborhood streets, and the men could pose a safety risk for small children.

Millen tried to arrest the neighbors concerns by explaining the application process to get a stay at the shelter, as well as the “zero-tolerance” drug policy.

Tiny Collins, a resident on South Lafayette and former city council member from 1986 to 1993, said he has compiled a list of seven other locations besides the one in his Charleston area.

Three of his top picks are:

l Behind the Salvation Army on 7th street

l Warren Avenue and Eighth Street

l Lebo Boulevard and Old Wheaton Way

He says they would not stick out as much as the shelter proposed by CCS, as well as lie closer to services like the Salvation Army.

Collins said they should continue to find a new place to locate the shelter, and involve some city officials in the discussion, as well as other residents in different parts of Bremerton.

“It should not be my way or the highway,” Collins said.

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