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Moses Lake homeless committee hopes to move forward with new shelter

by SAM FLETCHER
Staff Writer | February 19, 2021 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — In preparation for the city council meeting Tuesday, city officials spoke with the Moses Lake School District to make an agreement on the tentative upgraded homeless shelter, which would be at El Rancho Motel.

The results of the meeting are unknown, but more might come to light at the city council meeting.

In a statement released Feb. 12, the school district said it didn’t support the location for the new shelter due to its proximity to Garden Heights Elementary School, Chief Moses Middle School and Moses Lake High School.

“We will continue to advocate on behalf of our students to urge officials to identify alternative locations for long-term, sustainable, and safe solutions. We take this matter seriously and are prepared to work collaboratively with the City of Moses Lake to find the very best solution for all of our students, families, and community,” the release said.

The motel, at 1214 S. Pioneer Way, accepts vouchers from Grant County Housing Authority, The Salvation Army and others for unsheltered individuals, which has caused problems, said City Manager Allison Williams.

Williams met with the school district to gain their support, as there is no alternative building for the new shelter, she said. The location is the end of an ongoing process by the city to help unsheltered people, which started more than a year ago.

El Rancho Motel is in a commercial zoning district and the conversion would be a like-use to a like-use, she said. They are abiding by state distancing laws.

HopeSource, signed on to manage the facility, supports students in the Moses Lake School District, she said. Further, 1987’s Mckinney-Vento Act provides federal programs for school districts to help homeless students in need.

“The school district has a role,” Williams said. “They have a place on the homeless task force. They have homeless students that they are bound to support through the McKinney-Vento Act, and so we are asking them to walk with us in this.”

According to Linda Roscoe, El Rancho Motel’s district manager, the conversion of the motel to include screening, management, and services to help folks permanently shift out of homelessness, would be a positive change.

“Maybe they could get it under control and keep the drunk people out,” Roscoe said. “That’s what we’ve been trying to do, and sometimes we get lucky and sometimes we don’t, and that’s when the police are called.”

According to Moses Lake Police Chief Kevin Fuhr, who is also on the city’s ad hoc homeless committee, police responded to 79 incidents at El Rancho Motel in 2020, including domestic violence, trespassing, indecency, drugs, theft, vandalism, disturbances, runaways and general welfare checks.

“So far this year, just this year alone, in the first 40 days of 2021, we’ve already been there 10 times,” Fuhr said.

Fuhr said he is unaware if these calls are due to unscreened tenants on vouchers, but the new services at the motel would eliminate many of the police’s concerns.

Police have been to the Sleep Center on East Broadway Avenue very few times, Fuhr said. He attributes this to the active management and care of tenant needs.

“El Rancho right now, it’s a for-profit privately-owned company,” Fuhr said. “Frankly, all of the people who own it, what they’re concerned about is whether they’re getting paid or not. Short of that, there’s no oversight.”

Fuhr urged the school district to be on board with the purchase because the new shelter would greatly enhance the property’s safety, he said.

Sam Fletcher can be reached via email at sfletcher@columbiabasinherald.com.