Volunteers clean new homeless shelter property

Grounds of Kitsap County’s $6.3 million homeless shelter in Port Orchard got a makeover thanks to the sweat equity of volunteers who cleaned up the nearly 5-acre property.

“We were excited volunteers came out to tackle the weeds, rake and do litter pick-up,” said Kristen Jewell, manager of county’s housing and homeless division. “The building and grounds have been getting overgrown with weeds and branches downed during storms.”

The 20,000-square-foot shelter, slated to open by mid-2023, is being constructed in the building that used to house Olympic Fitness Club, at 4459 Mile Hill Drive, adjacent to the Astound Broadband office (formally WAVE Broadband). The facility will be the first of its kind in South Kitsap and will house 75 residents, including men, women, and families, county officials said.

The gym site was selected because it met zoning requirements, the building was connected to the sewer system, and came equipped with several restrooms and showers, officials said. The location’s proximity to transportation and community services were other factors.

The additional shelter beds will reduce the number of homeless people in the county, including those who had been living in encampments like those at Veterans Memorial Park, officials said.

Nearly 60 volunteers participated in the daylong clean-up June 24. The project was part of the “Day of Caring” program organized by United Way of Kitsap County.

“It was incredible having so many volunteers want to work on this project,” Jewell said. “Their work made a world of difference. The place now looks (like a) place someone would want to come and stay.”

Construction status

Work on the homeless shelter is still in the permitting phase.

Three permits are in the works — one to approve use of the former gym for a shelter; another to authorize exterior improvements, including a walkway through the property to meet ADA requirements; and a building permit to allow for interior renovations of the building, Jewell said.

Once permits have been approved a bid will be put out to hire a general contractor. Funding has come from a grant from the state Department of Commerce, federal COVID-19 pandemic recovery legislation and local sources.