Kitsap Rescue Mission’s religion-based hiring process puts a snag in grant funding

The overnight shelter is asking for an exemption based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Federal guidelines are keeping Kitsap County’s only overnight shelter, Kitsap Rescue Mission, from currently being eligible for federal funding to help building costs due to the nonprofit taking “faith” into consideration as a component in hiring its employees, according to Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler.

Initially, Wheeler proposed the reallocation of $120,000 in federal grant funding from the Quincy Square project to be used for building fixtures at the shelter, in efforts to prevent the shelter from moving to another location and temporarily closing.

According to Wheeler, the Community Development Block Grant committee selects a top option for the funding, and often times there are contingencies that have to be met in order to receive the funding. In Kitsap Rescue Mission’s case, they have applied for the funding but are currently not eligible per federal guidelines due to their practice of having employees sign off on a statement of faith before being hired.

“They would have to adjust that to say that they would not be able to discriminate in that matter,” Wheeler said. “If the rescue mission changes their policy — and it has to be board approved — then they would be in the first position for the funding.”

Wheeler did say that if Kitsap Rescue Mission does not meet board requirements, then the YWCA shelter, a domestic violence service provider in Bremerton, will be next in line for the funding for building repairs and a lead paint problem.

“Honestly, I don’t think there is a competition here, it’s just a matter of them (KRM) meeting the requirements and if not, we have a second position,” Wheeler said. “I hope they don’t feel like they are competing against each other. This is a public process to get to position one and position two.”

Kitsap Rescue Mission put out a statement on their website Thursday addressing the current situation.

“We have asked for an exemption based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and are waiting for a response to see if that exemption extends to Community Development Block Grants. Our faith in Christ is the center of who we are and why we are here for those in our community experiencing homelessness. We have always served all who come to us without regard to race, ethnicity, gender, disability, or religion – and will continue to do so.”

“We remain grateful to Mayor Greg Wheeler, city officials and the city council for all of their work, and we are continuing work on the permitting goals they have laid out for us.”

A 30-day public comment period is underway regarding the use of the funds and city council will follow with a vote on whether to approve the proposal or not.

More in News

DUI at Sedgwick on SR 16 causes two-car accident

Driver at fault taken to Tacoma General with injuries

Kitsap Rescue Mission reaches first fundraising goal

The group, which operates Kitsap’s only overnight homeless shelter, has raised $171,800

Bremerton man arrested for possession of child pornography

A Bremerton man and registered sex offender was arrested Wednesday morning for… Continue reading

Routine traffic stop results in two drug arrests in Bremerton

A routine traffic stop turned into a surprise drug bust for Bremerton… Continue reading

Naval Base Kitsap facilities could house coronavirus patients

If needed, NBK could house 20 patients in one of their lodging facilities

A Ford Explorer collided head-on with a Honda Odyssey along Clear Creek Road. (photo courtesy of KCSO)
Three-car collision bocks Clear Creek Road

Both lanes of Clear Creek Road in Silverdale were shut down Thursday… Continue reading

Kingston theater gathers $190,000 through fundraiser

Donations continue to flow in for Kingston Firehouse Theater

Poulsbo task force makes affordable housing recommendations

The Affordable Housing Task Force, the which has been tapped to help… Continue reading

Suspect at large after fleeing from troopers and crashing in Suquamish

Suquamish police: subject fled into the woods near Totten Road

Most Read