Military News

One more hurdle for plan to bring a veterans shelter to Tacoma

A proposal to bring a new emergency shelter for homeless veterans to Tacoma will get a $600,000 boost from the new state budget, but the proposal faces one more hurdle before it can move forward.

It’s one of the projects held up by a dispute in the state Senate that might prevent the state from issuing bonds that would pay for a $3.9 billion capital construction plan.

The money is intended to propel a long-planned initiative by several Tacoma Rescue Mission volunteers who want to give veterans a supportive place to settle while someone helps them make use of benefits they earned from their military service.

“Oh my gosh, we just see more and more particularly younger veterans coming out of Fort Lewis that are in need of short-term housing as they get themselves back on track,” said Dennis Sapp, a retired Navy captain who volunteers at the mission.

Sapp and Larry Geringer, a mission board member, have been coordinating a small veterans program within the Tacoma shelter.

They’ve been looking for a location to develop a larger shelter, but have hit obstacles that prevented them from getting started as a new nonprofit called the Puget Sound Veterans Hope Center.

The new plan would steer the state money to the Tacoma mission, which will manage the money as an umbrella organization for the Veterans Hope Center, said mission director Mike Johnson.

The new money would not be mixed in the mission’s general fund, he said.

State money gives the organization some momentum to accomplish the project.

“This is a recognition that there is a hole in the system for veteran homelessness, which is where do they go tonight?” Johnson said. “And where do they go tonight that is set up for them?”

State Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma, sponsored the provision to fund the shelter. It earmarks $150,000 to choose a location and make plans. The rest of the money would begin to pay for construction.

Sapp and Johnson said it’s not clear yet where the veterans shelter will be built. It could be developed on the site of the mission at 425 South Tacoma Way, they said.

Catholic Community Services and Tacoma’s Metropolitan Development Council have received more than $5 million in federal grants to support homeless veterans in the past two years.

They tend to provide rental assistance or vouchers to put people in permanent housing.

Enrolling in those programs takes about a month. The Veterans Hope Center would offer a place for former military service members until they can get into the long-term programs.

The capital budget passed by overwhelming majorities in the House and the Senate, making supporters hopeful the funds for the veterans center will make a final cut.