An Oak Harbor day shelter for homeless people is hoping to repair its relationship with Island County after learning last week the county terminated its contract.
Spin Cafe’s drop-in center staff are funded by Island County Human Services homeless housing money.
“It took us completely by surprise,” said Spin Cafe founder and Executive Director Vivian Rogers Decker.
She said county officials met with her last Wednesday to discuss some of its concerns over staff behavior. The next day, county Human Services Director Jackie Henderson sent a letter to Rogers Decker notifying her that, due to a “substantial breach” of contract, it would no longer provide Spin Cafe funding.
The letter states that program staff members, employed using county funds, were in personal relationships with Spin Cafe’s clients.
“This kind of behavior is damaging to the vulnerable population that this organization is to serve,” Henderson wrote.
Rogers Decker said in an interview that the staff member who was brought into question began dating someone who is no longer homeless and doesn’t use Spin Cafe’s services anymore. She said there was no fraternization policy or expectation outlined by the county before.
There is no explicit mention of inter-personal relationships in the county’s agreement with the nonprofit.
“We would not mind doing that, but we weren’t asked to,” Rogers Decker said.
The letter also claims employees were under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at work, a violation of the contract. “This lack of oversight of staff and the inappropriate behavior leave me no choice but to terminate this contract,” the letter states.
Rogers Decker said she was not aware of staff members being under the influence on the clock until county officials told her it was a concern of their’s last Wednesday. She only knew there was a related concern regarding side effects of prescription medication that had since been resolved, she said.
Island County paid for two full-time staff members and professional development in the $50,000 agreement through funding intended to stabilize homeless individuals and families. Spin Cafe’s staff is tasked with managing the day shelter on Bayshore Drive, providing laundry passes, referring clients to services and developing structured programming for guests.
The contract can be terminated by the county if it provides Spin Cafe with an opportunity to “cure the breach,” according to the document. Or, the county may end the relationship immediately if the nonprofit breached a material term in the contract and a “cure is not possible.”
Rogers Decker said she never had much of a chance to meet with her board of directors and staff to make the corrections the county asked for. Now, she hopes that a significant number of the grants the nonprofit applied for are successful.
“Our hope is that we would be able to continue our services at the level we currently are using private funds,” she said.