Commissioners push ahead with homeless shelter funding

County now taking applications for up to $500,000 for permanent shelter purchase

A half million dollars to buy a permanent homeless shelter building in Grays Harbor County is officially on the table.

A draft request for proposals appeared on the Grays Harbor County Board of Commissioners Agenda three separate times in the last month before being approved Tuesday by commissioners Kevin Pine and Jill Warne. Commissioner Vickie Raines was not present to vote at the meeting.

According to the draft document approved Tuesday, applicants have until April 30 to submit proposals to the county for up to $500,000. The one time award can only be used for capital investment — purchasing or improving property — in an emergency homeless shelter. The recipient will be responsible for funding continued operations.

The request for proposal document was held up for several weeks as the county’s legal team addressed concerns and commissioners discussed the funding source. After Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jon Beltran told commissioners there were “no updates” to the document, the board voted 2-0 to approve it with little discussion.

“This is a proposal for any piece of property or structure; anybody can apply in any part of the county,” Pine said during the meeting, thanking county staff.

The board hesitated to release the funds at its last meeting Feb. 27, after a public commenter threatened to bring legal action against the county for its solicitation and Commissioner Raines suggested the initial award be lowered to an amount of $350,000.

The shelter money will come from county document recording fees. The fees are one of the sources for the county’s Homeless Housing Fund, which supports a slew of other projects.

Grays Harbor County Public Health Director Mike McNickle said his department recommended awarding up to $500,000 for the shelter to keep the fund at a level that would ensure it could fulfill obligations for 2024. Raines was concerned that offering the full $500,000 would not leave enough for potential future requests from municipalities, which are entitled to document recording fees if they choose to run their own homeless housing programs.

Raines did not respond to a request for comment by press time on Tuesday.

With the county’s money on the table, focus will shift to the shelter’s location — the factor that has most commonly squashed local shelter efforts of the past few years. Last year, after the Aberdeen City Council and mayor requested not to host a temporary winter shelter within the city limits, Pine and former Mayor Pete Schave started searching for a permanent site. Schave said last year they had found a location “about as perfect as you can get” just outside the city limits of Aberdeen.

Aberdeen City Administrator Ruth Clemens told The Daily World in February that the city intends to apply for the funds to purchase a shelter site but did not confirm the location. Clemens urged county commissioners to approve the request for proposals when it first appeared on the agenda Feb. 13.

The city, along with any other applicants, will have to include a proposed location in their application for county funds, along with the proposed number of beds at the site.

After the application period closes at the end of April, commissioners will choose a successful applicant and staff will bring back a contract for approval. The draft documents target July 2024 as a start date.

The county’s request calls for a “low-barrier, high-intensity/co-located service model.” The shelter must operate in a way that aligns with the county’s five-year homelessness plan. The low-barrier model means the shelter wouldn’t deny entry based on sobriety, criminal history or entry into programs, but doesn’t mean the facility can’t implement rules for safety of the staff and guests.

Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or