A proposed 96-bed Union Gospel Mission homeless shelter cleared an important hurdle Wednesday evening, winning approval from Lewiston’s Planning and Zoning Commission for a conditional-use permit.
The commission will vote on the project again at a coming meeting after the decision has been formalized in a written document. If it’s approved, the decision can be appealed to the Lewiston City Council.
The shelter would be constructed at 419 Snake River Ave. and not accept anyone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, said Phil Altmeyer, executive director of ministries at UGM in Spokane.
The structured routine at what is described as a “high barrier” bridge shelter would include requiring those staying there to do chores and connecting individuals with health care, job placement services and other resources.
It would be on the same site where UGM presently operates a thrift store that won’t continue in that location if the shelter is constructed.
The first phase would have a new, two-story building with 48 beds for men on the first level and 36 beds for moms and children on the second level, which would also have 12 beds for single women.
The living areas for men would be separate from those for women and children. Single men and single women would sleep in dormitory-style rooms with multiple beds. Moms would be housed with children.
A cafeteria and chapel are also in the first phase and would be in a separate building.
Generally, intake would only happen during set hours. At night, the gates at the fenced site would be closed.
UGM has proven in the decades it’s been in existence that its facilities enhance the neighborhoods where they are located, Altmeyer said.
A 298-unit, $62 million apartment complex will soon be constructed near one of UGM’s Spokane locations, along with another 170-unit, $25 million apartment complex, he said.
“We have not been a detriment to the community,” Altmeyer said. “All we’ve done is beautify it and make it better.”
The Lewiston project faces opposition from nearby business owners and residents, many of whom testified that while they support UGM’s goals, they believe the shelter is in the wrong place.
With 96 beds, the shelter would roughly double the number of residents in the neighborhood, said Paul Clark, who lives just above the proposed facility site on Prospect Avenue.
He and his wife have installed security cameras and taken other steps in the face of attempted break-ins. One person made it into their home and recently a stranger was on their porch at 9:32 p.m.
Opponents are also worried that homeless individuals who didn’t meet the shelter’s criteria will congregate in nearby Kiwanis Park.
The communities that make it possible to get free breakfast, lunch and dinner while living on the street are the ones that experience issues with makeshift homeless camps, Altmeyer said.
Plus, homeless individuals would be subject to the same rules as everyone else at Kiwanis Park, which is closed from midnight to 6 a.m. each day, said Gordy Gregg, a former Lewiston fire chief who serves on UGM’s board.
“I can’t emphasize (enough) how important to me it is that we are a good neighbor,” Altmeyer said.
Williams may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2261.