Is the Mission shutting down?
Only the shelter is affected by the permit issue. We continue to have our daytime services available Monday through Friday as normal. People can still come in for clothing, coffee and case management. The Shelter is relocating temporarily with all staff and supplies to one of the Salvation Army’s upstairs meeting rooms. This is a generous offer and we are deeply grateful to them.
What can I do to help?
Our biggest need right now is financial. If we can make significant progress on our building, we can get a permit to keep the shelter open for good. Once our renovation is complete we will almost double our shelter capacity, from 26 to 45. When the full building renovations are complete we will be able to hold 90 guests between the shelter, and our men's and women's program.
We will be launching a crowdfunding website soon. It will allow those who want to take action to create a team, set a fundraising goal and do something they enjoy while raising money.
Why were you operating the shelter under a temporary permit?
When the building was purchased in 2015, the plan was to finish the renovation then open the shelter. KRM responded, though, to the urgent need of those experiencing homelessness and opened our doors first. We have spent approximately $120,000 per year to maintain the shelter - funds that could have paid for our renovation instead. Maybe this was a poor business decision, but it was a people first decision.
Is the building unsafe?
No. Labor and Industries were just through the building and made no recommendations for changes for safety. Their concern is employees, so we can say the building is safe for employees and employees are here at night. The building, however, is not up to City Code which requires a sprinkler system for maximum safety. Our plan always included sprinklers in our renovation. We just didn’t know they were needed now.
The Mayor said there was a fire hazard.
Possibly. Any building can potentially burn. Do you have a sprinkler system in your home? Like you we have smoke alarms throughout the building. Unlike most of you, we also have a fire alarm system wired to the fire department. If smoke was to be detected, alarms would go off and the fire department would be notified immediately.
Other precautions: we have 3 exit doors to the outside, the shelter is located on the ground floor, we have awake personnel on staff all night and a camera system with monitors at the front desk. Also, since our permit states that no sprinklers are required, we had no reason to believe that we weren’t compliant with City codes. See a copy of our Temporary Occupancy Permits here.
I thought you had an agreement with the City to stay open.
So did we. They gave us a plan for a series of 30 day steps ending January 14, that would allow us to stay open while we raised funds and completed the work needed.
When we submitted the required documents 5 days early so that we could receive feedback for the first renewal we instead received a public letter saying our steps were insufficient and given a three day notice to close the shelter. You can see a copy of that letter here.
CDBG funding question - what was that about?
The City was allowing us to apply for CDBG funding. We didn’t know until our last meeting with the grant committee that a nondiscrimination statement was needed (see that heading for more information). We appealed the nondiscrimination clause in hiring to HUD (which an allowance HUD has available). HUD told us they wouldn’t have a decision by the 14th (deadline of the first 30 day permit renewal) - the Mayor stated the decision could take years. That was not our understanding.
The Mayor said that you had been promising renovations for years, but hadn’t accomplished anything.
The Mayor is correct in that our progress has been slow, but it’s not true we haven’t made improvements.
Progress on Building Renovation since 2015:
Construction expenses to date = $ 423,000
Over 1600 volunteer hours expended plus contractor efforts.
1. Architectural design and construction drawings complete
2. Hazardous material abatement accomplished
3. Fire Monitoring System installed through the building
4. Second floor, stairwells, and high bay demo
5. New subfloor installed on 2nd floor
6. Interior walls (90%) installed on 2nd floor
7. Vapor barrier applied to the second floor, stairwell and high bay exterior walls
8. CMU shear wall earthquake reinforcement accomplished
9. Underpayment sewer lines and structural footers installed in the high bay area
10. Three coats of liquid roof paint have been applied to seal up leaks (2019)
11. New structural walls installed for commercial kitchen
12. Additional structural support walls installed on the second floor
What did you do when you learned you might have to close the shelter?
We immediately reached out to the community to find another location to serve our shelter guests. We did this right after our first meeting on the 13th of September. When we received notice that they were shutting us down. We approached the Salvation Army, the Marvin Williams Center, and several churches in the area to see if they could provide temporary accommodations for our shelter guests. At that time, we were asking for immediate shelter.
Why didn’t the shelter close after your first meeting with the City on September 13th?
I sent an email to the Mayor after our meeting with City officials to ask if he’d like to issue a joint statement to the press as I wanted the story to be fair. The Mayor called me right away, explaining that there’d been a misunderstanding and that he had no intention of shutting our shelter down. He intervened at that time and worked with us and City officials to create the 120 day plan (Four 30 day temporary permits contingent on steps completed in each cycle) to keep us open until January 14th. You can see a copy of that plan here.
If you had funds in hand today, would the City let you stay open?
On October 10, 2019 (four days before our permit expired) we received a generous offer from a member of our community, of an interest free loan for $150,000 hoping that would allow us to stay open. I went up to the Mayor’s office and asked for a meeting. He graciously met with me right then. I asked him if we had the funds in hand today for the sprinkler system, meeting the terms of our agreement, would that allow us to stay open, and he said, “No.”
Why wouldn’t you just use the nondiscrimination statement they provided and take the money? Wouldn’t that solve the issue?
The Kitsap Rescue Mission is a faith-based organization. Most non-profits are values based organizations that look for people who share a belief in their cause when hiring. Our central belief is faith in Jesus Christ. When he walked this earth, those who followed him were often the outcasts who were drawn because of his grace and compassion. We make it our mission to follow his teachings in serving those who come through our doors. To change who we are in order to receive grant funds would be betraying our central beliefs and purpose in being here.
This statement from the Justice Department explains well the position of a faith based organization such as the Kitsap Rescue Mission:
There is no general Federal law that prohibits faith-based organizations that receive Federal funds from hiring on a religious basis. . . This special provision for faith-based groups protects the religious liberty of communities of faith. It permits faith-based groups to promote common values, a sense of community and unity of purpose, and shared experiences through service – all of which contribute to a religious organization's effectiveness. In order for a religious organization to define or carry out its mission, it may consider it important that it be able to take religion into account in hiring staff. Just as a college or university can take the academic credentials of an applicant for a professorship into consideration in order to maintain high standards, or an environmental organization can consider the views of potential employees on conservation, so too should a faith-based organization be able to take into account an applicant's religious belief when making a hiring decision.
Do you discriminate in providing services?
NO! It is our goal to greet anyone who comes to us with respect and welcome. What a guest believes has no impact on whether they receive services or not. We operate a low barrier, behavior based shelter and dayroom. That means even if someone has been drinking, is high, or has mental health issues, they are welcome as long as they don’t disrupt others.
So what can you do?
Do you have any other questions?
Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you.