Share to stop operating Vancouver Navigation Center

November 1, 2019 – The Columbian

Move follows disagreements with city over operations at center for homeless

READ – Navigation Center and Homeless Response Assessment – Summer 2019
READ – Report on Vancouver’s homeless services – Alpha Project, October 2019
READ – letter from Vancouver homelessness coordinator to community members – November 1, 2019

Homeless service nonprofit Share will cease operating the Vancouver Navigation Center after January.

Executive Director Diane McWithey said Share and the city of Vancouver had differences of opinion on how to operate the Navigation Center, a day facility for the area’s homeless population. She said they notified the city about a week ago of and will begin notifying clients today of the change. A replacement operator was not identified in an email sent by the city in response to Share’s decision.

McWithey said they felt Share and city did not have “the same mission vision and values as to how to run the day center, so we gave notice.”

The notice comes shortly after the city released a third-party report in which Alpha Project, a San Diego-based nonprofit, described the center as poorly managed and recommended several changes, including opening a temporary, 150-bed bridge shelter. During its Sept. 4 site visit, “Alpha Project observed virtually no control over access to the facility, little client engagement, and an absence of any social modeling to shape and control client conduct. During the same visit, Alpha Project observed neighborhood impacts stemming from client conduct in the community and little effort to mitigate those issues or engage community interests in positive relationships.”

Share is working with its staff and the city on a transition plan. Several changes will be implemented by Nov. 11 that increase security at the Navigation Center, according to an email sent to community members by the city’s Homeless Resource Manager Jackie St. Louis.

An ID card system was recently implemented by Share and will continue to be used to control access in and out of the building. The sole entrance will be the door facing the main parking lot, a change that McWithey said Share had wanted.

The outdoor area will be enclosed and there will be no loitering outside of the building. Along with requiring a new check-in procedure, a new code of conduct will be enforced, the email said.

A thorough cleaning of the building interior will take place Nov. 8 through 10, during which the Navigation Center will be closed. When it reopens Nov. 11, the Vancouver Police Department will have a daily presence at the facility “to help with security and code of conduct rules” through Nov. 24, the email said.

The changes mirror some of the recommendations outlined in Alpha Project’s report. During a Dec. 10 community meeting, St. Louis will discuss the changes and answer questions.

Nine Share employees who work at the Navigation Center will move to other Share programs or receive severance packages, McWithey said.

She said that there are many different ways of addressing homelessness and that the community thrives on differences and creativity in its response to the problem.

“Our population of the homeless is a growing population. There’s a tremendous need in our community,” McWithey said. “The day center was one response, but there needs to be a multifaceted response to this problem.”

The contentious day center originally opened mid-December 2015 at Friends of the Carpenter in west Vancouver and last November moved to 2018 Grand Boulevard in central Vancouver. The new, larger location has drawn criticism from community members and Vancouver City Council, which requested the third-party review.