Following a well-attended and spirited community forum Monday night regarding a proposed severe weather shelter, Community House on Broadway announced it was open to managing the shelter — if a new location is found.
Executive Director Frank Morrison said the Community House board on Monday authorized him to “explore the possibility of managing a program to provide a cold-weather shelter at any location in Longview.”
He said he is already looking at possible alternative locations and expects to present a business plan to the board by Monday.
The current severe weather shelter proposal from the Kelso-Longview Ministerial Association includes Love Overwhelming as the managing association, and the proposed location is First Christian Church at 2000 East Kessler Blvd.
Morrison said he has talked to members of the ministerial association and said they seemed willing to look at a different location and have Community House manage it.
Community House is best equipped to run an emergency shelter because it’s new social support center has had a lot of success helping people “get off the streets, get off the drugs and get into a normal life,” Morrison said Tuesday. “The combination of having chemical dependency counselors, mental health staff and also being able to help them with housing and a job, all that, the whole continuum of care, we’ve been able to do.”
Morrison said he thought the shelter would take between six and 12 part-time or full-time employees, depending on the number of volunteers. Community House is strictly available to those who are clean and sober, but the emergency shelter would be less exclusive and instead based on behavior.
The process of selecting and preparing an emergency shelter takes time and includes creating policies and procedures, conducting city inspections and communicating with neighbors, said ministerial association spokesperson Liz Kearny, who is a pastor at Longview Presbyterian Church.
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“We look forward to having partners at the table who have already put in the time and thought and effort that the (Kelso-Longview Ministerial Association) and the staff of Love Overwhelming have already put into a location,” Kearny said. “If someone is willing to put in that time and effort, were are willing to have that conversation.”
However, any proposal would have to include Love Overwhelming, she said, because it is “absolutely essential to have them at the table.”
“They have the experience running a cold weather shelter in town in recent memory and the rapport with the people who would be accessing shelter. We cannot do this without them. Anything proposed in the future would have to be a collaboration with all partners at the table,” Kearny said.
Chuck Hendrickson, executive director of Love Overwhelming, said he is proud of the work LO has done, but he “wouldn’t compete” to manage the shelter.
“When the Kelso-Longview Ministerial Association first asked us to manage it and oversee the project, our whole stance was we don’t care who manages it, as long as it’s in our community,” Hendrickson said Tuesday. “It’s a big deal to us.”
He added that LO has long supported Community House because it is an important resource in the community.
“The conversation has gone from about the people we are serving to a conversation about who should manage this and who should manage that,” Hendrickson said. “That’s unacceptable in my opinion.”