Now that the Kitsap Rescue Mission’s temporary shelter permit has expired, the Salvation Army in Bremerton has agreed to open the overnight shelter in its building until mid-March.
“I want to thank the Salvation Army leadership for opening their hearts and providing a safe and warm space for our vulnerable homeless population at this time,” Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler said in a statement Oct. 11.
“This shelter will serve an important need in our community as the weather grows colder.”
Those who stay at the Salvation Army will have direct access to Kitsap Connect, which has a daytime office in the building to link homeless individuals with resources for housing, food, medical and other critical services.
Kitsap Rescue Mission’s temporary shelter permit expired Oct. 13, following the City of Bremerton’s announcement last week that it would not extend the permit due to fire safety concerns. KRM’s daytime office operations will not be affected and will continue under its current business occupancy permit.
The building has been issued a series of temporary occupancy permits dating back to December 2015. Initially, Wheeler proposed using $120,000 in federal grant funding to assist in building fixtures, but KRM’s religion-based hiring process didn’t meet federal guidelines in order to be eligible to receive the funding.
Nancy Olsten, executive director of Kitsap Rescue Mission, released a statement last week in response to Bremerton’s decision, claiming the city issued a plan for them for a series of 30-day extensions ending Jan. 14, 2020, if they complied with the steps outlined in each segment.
The steps included a schedule, costs for the sprinkler system installation and a funding strategy. KRM submitted documentation last week requesting a 30-day permit renewal.
“The mayor mentions in his letter that they denied our permit renewal because we hadn’t secured funding,” Olsten wrote. “A strategy is not the same as securing funding, so my understanding is that we complied fully with all that was asked of us.”
Olsten also said the building has smoke detectors, a fire alarm system, a camera system, and staff members who are awake to monitor the shelter all night. As to why KRM didn’t have a sprinkler system installed before, Olsten said the issue of a sprinkler system as a permit renewal requirement wasn’t raised until a meeting with the city on Sept. 13.
“I am at a loss to understand how we could have been working alongside the city pursuing a plan that they laid out and then learn that the mayor decided that we didn’t meet the criteria without discussing that decision with us,” Olsten’s statement reads.
“I am disappointed that the mayor has shown such bad faith in dealing with us after inviting us to work together with his team on a solution to keep the shelter open.”