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Moses Lake moves forward with programs to fight homelessness

by EMRY DINMAN
Staff Writer | September 15, 2020 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — As the city of Moses Lake moves closer to building a managed homeless camp serviced by HopeSource, city officials have also been working with that agency and county officials to convert a hotel into an emergency shelter and affordable housing units.

With a combined 20 “tiny home” units in the camp and 30 converted hotel units, the city is looking to create this capacity in response to the increasingly visible issue of homelessness in Moses Lake and the surrounding region. In addition, the converted hotel could add to the region’s small stock of affordable housing, said City Manager Allison Williams in an interview.

Though the city has been considering these projects for nearly two years and had worked to secure some long-term funding sources, one-time pandemic-related grants from federal and state governments have been made available specifically for these types of projects, Williams said. Those grants will cover the cost of getting both projects off the ground, she added.

“If there’s a silver lining to all of this COVID stuff, there has been money filtering down to help with those in crisis,” Williams said.

Many of the managed camp’s exact costs remain to be determined, Williams noted, including the cost of the housing units, cost for preparing the overgrown and long-abandoned site, and the cost of the lease for the site. However, enough funding has already been secured to get the program started and running for the near future, Williams added.

Those funding sources include $170,000 of state COVID-19 Emergency Shelter Grants and $175,000 in federal CARES Act funds, Williams told city council members at a Sept. 8 council meeting.

City and county officials also applied for a joint grant of $522,000 so that HopeSource could purchase the hotel to convert into emergency shelter units and affordable housing, Williams said.

In addition to one-time funding sources, the city has also worked to secure continued funding, including $56,800 annually in a sales tax rebate authorized by the state legislature in 2019.

The city is also working with the county to carve out a portion of recording fees paid by the city, initially estimated at $135,000, Williams said. However, due to recent changes to how the state calculates real estate excise taxes, county officials have been trying to recalculate how large that portion would be.

Given those sums, together, the city could be working with around $1 million.

Once the programs are up and running, Williams said the city would be working to secure additional funding to pay for ongoing costs and has hired a housing and grants program manager who will help with that.

“It is a start,” Williams said. “I think the intention there is that, based on our needs, we’re probably going to need to grow that.”

If the managed camp’s current proposed site at the corner of East Broadway Avenue and state Route 17 is approved by the city council at its next meeting Sep. 22, city officials hope to have the site open by the end of October, Williams said. The emergency shelter, however, likely won’t open until winter at the earliest, she added.