Poulsbo considers using Nelson House as recovery residence

The Poulsbo City Council is considering using the historic Nelson House on 3rd Avenue as a recovery residence/sober living house that would operate in coordination with the new Recovery Resource Center.

The furnished house, owned by the city, has been used the last six years as a home for young women at risk of homelessness, city documents say. Residents had caretaking duties at Nelson Park as part of a Coffee Oasis-run program. That lease ended in January so now the house is vacant.

City Housing, Health and Human Services director Kim Hendrickson said there is a scarcity of clean and sober housing in Kitsap County, particularly North Kitsap. In the four months since the Recovery Resource Center has been open, the city has worked with many people who would benefit from such housing and could not find a placement, she said.

City Public Works also relies on residents of Nelson House to provide park caretaking, as the park is without one. Hendrickson said Nelson House has already functioned as shared housing, and caretaking requirements provide community service opportunities for residents.

The state Department of Commerce defines recovery residences as: “Housing for individuals recovering from substance abuse disorders. Recovery residences provide an alcohol- and drug-free environment, peer support, and assistance with obtaining treatment and support services where the length of residency is not limited to a specific duration.”

The council had a list of questions regarding Nelson House, such as:

If Nelson House operates as a recovery residence, can we give Poulsbo residents priority placement? Hendrickson said that’s something the city attorney advises. “This is city property so we want to make sure we’re using it in a way that benefits residents of Poulsbo.”

Can a recovery residence be used by families? “It is a model we might want to consider in the future,” Hendrickson said. “I think for the purposes of the Nelson House, it will not be appropriate because of the importance of people in this house who can provide caretaking duties.”

What are the insurance considerations? “We do have general and property coverage on the Nelson House,” she said. “When we enter an agreement with the new operator we’ll expect them to have their own liability coverage.”

If we use Nelson House as a recovery residence, does there need to be a competitive process to select an operator? “No. It’s such a unique provider that would fulfill the requirements that we have locally to build this recovery residence,” Hendrickson said.

Can the operator of a city-owned home profit from operating the house? “No. All money made at the recovery house must be put back to support operations or reserves at the house,” she said.

What are city staff/cost implications in using Nelson House as a recovery residence? “Because the operator cannot make a profit, I’m very confident that the rents that are charged to the residents will be used to sustain the operations and expenses. No additional city funds would be needed,” Hendrickson concluded.

The suggested criteria for selecting an operator includes: multi-year experience operating recovery homes; demonstrated record of operating homes effectively; emphasis on community service and vocational training/resident employment; certified; and able to start operations quickly, per documents.

Hendrickson suggests the council move forward with an agreement with Gambit Recovery to be the operator. Gambit offers affordable upscale sober living housing for people struggling with addiction in Arizona, California and Missouri.

The topic will continue to be discussed at the March 20 council meeting.