Attendees at the ribbon cutting ceremony for Salvation Army’s new building in Washougal whooped and applauded Saturday as members of the nonprofit and community lauded the efforts it took to complete the project are feeling blessed.
“People in need frequently come and spend the day at the day shelter. We’re blessed by the new building,” Ministry Leader Samantha Wheeler told a crowd of about four dozen people.
Wheeler addressed the attendees in a chapel on the same property that includes the new building, which is meant to provide food, shelter and other services to people in need.
The new building – the Salvation Army of Camas/Washougal that officially opened in October – replaced a much smaller one used for nearly 20 years. At its groundbreaking, Wheeler recalled, she said it was impossible to expand services in the old facility. Services were occasionally suspended, flooding shut down the childcare room and, on busy days, people had to wait outside.
“With the new building, no one ever has to wait outside,” Wheeler said.
The building, located at 1612 I Street in Washougal, is about six times the size of its predecessor at around 4,550 square feet, according to Jennifer Beattie, president of CIDA Architects. It was constructed from modules shipped down from Seattle.
It was October 2013 when Beattie received an email asking if such a project would be possible. At that time, the answer was “maybe.” But everyone pulled together to finish a services location at which “every inch is consumed by something that’s needed,” she said.
Taking the grand tour
People got a look at the building’s features following several speeches from Salvation Army officials and local dignitaries, as well as a ribbon cutting starring a humorously large pair of scissors.
Among its most used spaces is the blessing room. It holds racks of clothing, rubber bins of small childrens’ toys and shelves of kitchenware. Attendees of the event carried little “passport” booklets explaining services and shuffled into this room and others, where passport agents answered questions.
The largest space of the building is at its center, dubbed the Fellowship Hall. Toddlers and kids played games like cornhole and Operation in the room during the event. Around the holidays, it’s used to serve meals.
The hygiene center is another popular feature. It’s best described as a shower room. The inclusion of the shower stall was much needed in town. Clark County’s homeless community has lamented the lack of showers. During the summer, Share House in downtown Vancouver stopped providing showers to people who are unsheltered, citing plumbing issues and overuse of the building.
Shower use is up 35%
Wheeler said the shower has been heavily used since the building’s opening. The service is offered three times week, but it will be open for use four times a week in March.
In fact, the overall use of services has increased. It has seen about 550 clients each week – a 35 percent increase compared the old facility.
Richard Hays has used the building twice. The first time was Friday; the second on Saturday. Hays said he’s residentially challenged, a term he prefers over homeless. He came to the area from Tacoma.
On Friday, Hays simply wanted to get warm. He said the building offered that comfort as well as a pair of Carhartt overalls.
“It’s great. There was food and company,” Hays said. “The staff was really helpful. They got us info on other resources.”
Kendra Taggart is much more familiar with the building, and the old one. Taggart said she started going to church and using the services about five years ago. She wanted to get sober, and she had heard from others going through addiction that they’d been there and hadn’t been judged for their dilemmas.
Taggart said she cried when the old building was torn down.
“I had a lot of fond memories in the old building. I got sober in that building,” she said. “I now feel those same emotions in this new building.”
After volunteering at the location for two years, Taggart is in her second week on the job there.