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Homeless shelter granted special use permit

After listening to three hours of public testimony and scanning through letters, e-mails and staff reports, Bremerton’s Hearing Examiner James Driscoll approved a special use permit Tuesday for a homeless shelter in Bremerton’s Charleston area.

Residents surrounding the Rodgers Street and Cambrian Avenue location talked on the phone Wednesday night about whether or not they should dish out the $110 filing charge plus attorney fees to appeal the decision.

They have 21 days to do so from Friday, May 7.

The application for the special use permit was filed by Catholic Community Services, which intends to provide transitional housing for 25 men, including a place to shower, eat, receive phone calls and mail.

Many homeless men complain about the difficulty in finding a job without a phone or mail address.

“I’m excited,” said the project planner Pat Millen. “We have worked hard. We are working hard to continue to meet the needs of the homeless.”

Millen wants to have construction completed by December 2005 on the $1.6 million facility.

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

Driscoll approved the application on Tuesday, May 4 with nine conditions.

Among them, the maximum number of occupants shall not exceed 25, drug and alcohol detoxification services are prohibited on the site, counseling services for individuals not residing on the site are prohibited, no one can be assigned there because of a criminal conviction and construction must be acted on within one year before the special use permit expires.

According to City Planner Robert Grumbach, the next step for CCS is providing a site plan and applying for building permits. The city council will not act on the decision.

Charleston residents’ say one of their top concerns with placing the shelter in their neighborhood is their and their children’s safety will be compromised.

They spoke at the public hearing on Tuesday, April 27 that CCS was not doing enough to conduct background checks with their current HOST program, which works with area churches to provide a limited number of men boarding and transportation.

Millen said since the public hearing, she has run background checks through the Washington State Patrol on every man in their program, but hasn’t found out any information she didn’t know before.

All members fill out an intake form where they can list their criminal history.

“I don’t believe there is a single shelter doing background checks on the men and women coming in,” said Millen on the phone Thursday morning.

“It is usually self-report.”

One of the most vocal residents on the Homeless Shelter, former City Council member Tiny Collins, said CCS is not doing enough the find out if they have a criminal or a person that may reoffend in the area.

“I don’t think they can do a good job of weeding out criminals,” he said. “Drug addicts or alcoholics are the best liars in the world.”

Collins said he views Driscoll’s decision as a great setback to their effort to try to get the shelter located in another area in town.

“I think that maybe we were talking a different language and the guy really didn’t understand what was being said,” he said.

The day after the decision was printed up by Robert Grumbach at the Department of Community Development, Collins picked up a copy and made copies for 24 homeowners in the Charleston area who have expressed adamant disapproval of the homeless shelter plans.

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