Shrinking the City Hall homeless camp, opening a cold weather shelter and CARES Act funding were among the topics discussed at Wednesday’s Aberdeen City Council meeting.
The city’s ad hoc committee on the homeless met and discussed the ongoing plan to reduce the footprint of the city-funded homeless tent camp in the parking lot behind City Hall.
Community Development Director Lisa Scott told the council that even with the reduced number of people using the camp — 22 at last count — there were issues with camp residents breaking through the fencing that surrounds the camp and “sneaking people in or out.” The camp has a strict no visitors policy due to COVID-19 concerns.
“We’re putting up clean shelters,” said Scott, and the plan to reduce the size of the camp should help 24-hour onsite security keep the trespassing down.
Scott told the council that the county has entered into two contracts, one with Chaplains on the Harbor and another with Coastal Community Action Program, “to operate two cold weather shelters, one in Westport and one in Aberdeen.” The shelters will be paid for with COVID-19 federal relief funds and are slated to run Nov. 1-March 31. Scott said there are plans to have staff onsite with the potential of having an on-call behavioral specialist available if needed.
“We lost two individuals last year due to cold weather, so this is a great thing as we head into winter,” she said.
Meanwhile, discussions between the city and the county continue on the possibility of a longer term homeless camp, said Scott.
CARES Act funding
Scott said the city is looking at entering a third round of small business grants with its allocation of federal COVID-19 CARES Act relief funds. There were 44 businesses approved in the first two rounds of funding, and the majority has been processed. “If the checks aren’t already out they will be soon,” said Scott.
Applications for the third round of small business grants of up to $10,000 each should be up by Monday, said Scott. Check the city website, aberdeenwa.gov, for updates.
Parks Director Stacie Barnum told the council the city is eligible for just under $760,000 in federal CARES Act money, including an additional allocation received just last week. These funds must be paid up front by the city first. Then the city invoices the state Department of Commerce, which manages the federal funds, and COVID-19-related expensess are reimbursed from the allocation.
So far, the small business grants have taken up just shy of $124,000 in the city’s CARES Act allocation. Just under $69,000 has gone toward the homeless camp for cleaning supplies, protective gear and the like, and the level of professional cleaning needed to operate city facilities. Barnum said she was working recently with new Finance Director Patricia Soule, looking at anticipated expenses ahead of Commerce’s Nov. 30 deadline to request the reimbursable funds for COVID-19-related activities.
The City Council has earmarked $200,000 for small business grants, leaving about $77,000 for round three. With total expenses to date for CARES Act funds and expected expenditures, the total spoken for has run to just under $475,000, leaving about $286,600 available for expenses incurred between now and the Nov. 30 deadline.