Lewis County commissioners approve contracts for bathrooms and kitchen at new night-by-night shelter

County manager says facility on track to open by the end of the year


Lewis County is targeting the opening of a new night-by-night shelter by the end of the year following a monthslong permitting dispute with the City of Chehalis, according to County Manager Ryan Barrett.

On Tuesday, the Board of Lewis County Commissioners took another step toward opening the delayed project, approving two contracts worth a combined $230,000 for kitchen and bathroom trailers for the new facility.

The county used money from the state’s consolidated homeless grant to fund the purchase.

Lewis County will purchase a portable restroom and shower from Niu Toilet for $121,000, which will be used both for the shelter and “upon occasion, people rendered temporarily homeless through emergencies or natural disasters.”

Meja Handlen, the Lewis County Public Health and Social Services director, told the board that the units are a “cost-effective way to accommodate the requirements for the number of bathrooms, the showering.”

The county will also purchase a 26-foot-long mobile kitchen unit from Renown Cargo Trailer for $93,800, which “provides the flexibility to serve not only those in the shelter” but occasional usage offsite. Since the shelter will be classified as a night-by-night facility, Handlen said a kitchen is not required.

“But to provide services, and if say there was some catastrophic incident where people did have to shelter there 24 hours, food could be made and given out at that location,” Handlen said.

In a response to a hypothetical scenario proposed by Commissioner Sean Swope about whether the trailer could be used to aid in a natural disaster, Handlen said it can be utilized for “persons experiencing homelessness.”

“So it does kind of have that multi-use benefit,” Swope said.

Night-by-night shelters are a form of emergency housing that open each afternoon and close in the mornings. They offer food, showers and a place to sleep.

The plan to open a night-by-night shelter initially included opening an interim shelter at 2015 NE Kresky Ave., the former Washington State Employees Credit Union, as a permanent shelter at 2025 NE Kresky Ave. was completed. However, the county determined the use of 2025 NE Kresky Ave. as a final shelter location to be “prohibitively expensive.”

On Tuesday, the commissioners said the county intends to move forward despite delays and a recent Supreme Court ruling that allows local jurisdictions to enact tougher camping restrictions on public lands.

“I definitely don’t have any ideas of not moving forward,” Commissioner Scott Brummer said. “I think it’s important for the community and something that has unfortunately taken a longer time than we had hoped for, but is a real necessity.”

Following a permitting dispute with the City of Chehalis, Lewis County filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging the city “intentionally interfered with said opening for an improper purpose, delay and by improper means.” The suit was dropped weeks later, with Commissioner Lindsey Pollock saying the decision came “in light of the anticipated cooperation” with the city.

During the meeting, Barrett said he was meeting with the county’s project manager later that morning to discuss the new shelter.

“We are committed to doing everything within our power to have this shelter open and running by the end of the year,” Barrett said.