Homeless Coalition shelter project moving forward

Whidbey Homeless Coalition has plans to turn a former church into a 35-bed shelter.

Whidbey Homeless Coalition moved a few steps forward in plans to transform a former Jehovah’s Witness church into a 35-bed shelter for the unsheltered.

Last week, the Island County commissioners approved a contract with the Whidbey Homeless Coalition that formally awards the group a $415,000 state Department of Commerce grant to purchase the building on Morris Road near Coupeville.

Jonathan Kline, the executive director, told the commissioners last week that an offer on the property had been accepted.

The state awarded the grant last fall.

Since then, the coalition has been working through the county permit process, according to Kline.

Kline said the coalition had to answer more than 100 community concerns during the zoning code interpretation process.

Kline said other work, including the installation of sprinklers, needs to be completed before the shelter can be opened.

In order to fund sprinklers and other improvements, the coalition will start a capital improvement campaign to raise funds, he explained.

Kline hopes to open the shelter in early summer with limited residency at first.

The group currently runs the Haven, the island’s sole emergency shelter; the pop-up shelter alternates between different churches in Oak Harbor.

Kline said he’s thankful to the Christian Reformed Church, First Reformed Church and First United Methodist for hosting the shelter for so long, but there always was an understanding that the Homeless Coalition would seek a permanent shelter.

“It will be nice not having to spend so much time setting up and tearing down,” he said.