Opponents of a center for troubled youth planned for downtown Bremerton say the addition of the social service would be a step backward for the neighborhood’s revitalization.
But supporters of the service run by Catholic Community Services and Catholic Housing Services say it’s a population that needs help.
Almost 20 downtown Bremerton residents and business owners gathered at a meeting Tuesday to oppose the location of the “youth connection center.”
The service is slated to move into the Max Hale Center, located at the corner of Fifth Street and Pacific Avenue. Its purpose is to reconnect troubled youth with their families and, if necessary, offer short-term shelter.
Opponents of the center said that bringing a center for at-risk youth downtown contradicts efforts to redevelop the area and attract tourists.
“It seems like you’re taking two steps back when you do something like this,” said Carol Perlmutter, a downtown resident and a coordinator of a petition drive to protest the center.
Her primary concern, she said, was the safety of downtown residents.
“I’m not going to feel safe at night,” Perlmutter said.
Others at the meeting, hosted by City Councilman Roy Runyon, said downtown needs more retail shops and consumer spending in the area, not social services.
“I do not feel that social services belong in the Bremerton core,” said Amy Burnett, owner of Amy Burnett Gallery on Fourth Street. “I have other alternatives for an Amy Burnett Gallery if it gets down to being a social services center.”
Representatives from Catholic Community Services and Catholic Housing Services were unable to attend the meeting. But Dave Kucklick, service director for the Family Preservation Program of Bremerton at Catholic Community Services, said that opponents of the center do not understand its intended services. Instead of acting as a residential homeless shelter, it’s meant to reconnect young people with their families – something that other local services such as Coffee Oasis do not offer.
“The ideal is that kids would never have to stay in an overnight shelter,” Kucklick said.
He hopes to talk with area businesses and residents to discuss their concerns, he said.
“They have a right to be heard and I think we would love to meet with them,” Kucklick said. “I think if they heard what we’re trying to do and the uniqueness of what we’re trying to do, they wouldn’t be so concerned.”
But this center “is barely out of the idea stage,” as City Councilman Greg Wheeler put it at the meeting.
Catholic Community Services and Catholic Housing Services still need to raise $1.3 million, renovate the Max Hale Center and apply for permits.
If the center were to move forward, its opening is still at least a year away, Kucklick said.
Perlmutter said that she is not opposed to offering needed services to local youth. She just wants to feel safe in her neighborhood.
“If the kids need help, they should get help,” she said.