County looking for prospective youth shelter operator

A new shelter for homeless youth in Grays Harbor County could be coming in spring 2019, after the Grays Harbor Youth Center — the only only such shelter in the county — closed in August.

The Grays Harbor County Public Health and Social Services Department says it wants to reopen a youth homeless shelter in the area, and is seeking organizations willing to operate it.

The department sent out a request for qualifications (RFQ) on Monday looking for organizations that could manage a shelter for six homeless youth aged 12 to 17 and provided a timeline stating they want to open the shelter by sometime next spring.

In August, financial troubles and a switch in focus to other youth services led Catholic Community Services to close the Grays Harbor Youth Center in Aberdeen.

The funding for the new shelter would come from a few different state grants, and local funds for homeless and affordable housing. According to the request for qualifications, the county itself would administer the State Department of Commerce’s Consolidated Homeless grant, which it currently receives and reapplies for every two years, as well as other county funds for housing already in place.

The public health department also wants to apply for additional state funds through the state’s Office of Homeless Youth.

These funds are not intended for capital building projects, and Housing Resource Coordinator Cassie Lentz said the goal would be to use an existing building to house the shelter.

Lentz added that the department identified a couple barriers in the previous youth shelter that it hopes to eliminate in the new one. Because of funding restrictions in the previous shelter, children in foster care and families that were at risk of having their children removed could not be served by the shelter, Lentz said.

Another issue Lentz said the department wants to improve is pairing the youth shelter with behavioral health services in the same facility.

“We identified there’s a huge overlap between behavioral health and the need for emergency housing for kids and families,” said Lentz.

Applications from organizations that want to operate the shelter are due on Dec. 28.