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Disability Action Center NW

City gets new suggestion for overnight shelter

By Elaine Williams Of the Lewiston Tribune, Jun 29, 2022

Molly SherpaHomeless individuals displaced by a closure of the LC Valley Adult Resource Center’s temporary overnight shelter should be allowed to use the Lewiston Community Center during its off hours, as recommended by one advocate.

The LC Valley Adult Resource Center would provide staff, security and insurance, according to a June 24 letter sent to Lewiston’s mayor and city council members from Molly Pollastrini, acting president of the center and an independent living advocate with Disability Action Center NW.

The low-barrier shelter provided anyone a warm, dry place to sleep at a Salvation Army building along 21st Street in Lewiston from mid-December through May 31 as long as they met minimal criteria, such as not posing a threat to themselves or others.

Pollastrini’s letter was cited as the reason the city council didn’t act Monday on a written document that detailed the reasons for its June 13 vote reversing the Lewiston Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval of a conditional-use permit that would have allowed a 35-bed shelter to open permanently at 1332 G St.

The city’s legal counsel is researching and reviewing Pollastrini’s letter. The issue is expected to be on the July 11 council agenda.

The matter was before the Lewiston City Council because the Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision was appealed by Haener Properties LTD, which owns a building near where the homeless shelter was proposed.

Because of the council’s delay and apparent denial of the G Street site for the shelter, the LC Valley Adult Resource Center has lost the opportunity to buy the property, which is a two-story building that previously housed Inland Cellular offices, according to Pollastrini’s letter.

Without the temporary shelter, more than 20 disabled, homeless people are sleeping at a park or “making do where they can,” according to her letter.

Council members plan to hold a work session with the city of Clarkston as well as Nez Perce and Asotin counties about potential locations for a low-barrier shelter that would serve the population who used the one at the Salvation Army.

The city is scheduling a meeting with the LC Valley Adult Resource Center and Intermountain Fair Housing, a group copied on the letter, and wants to work with anyone seeking a solution, according to a statement the city of Lewiston issued Tuesday in response to the letter.

But “this does not imply that the Lewiston City Council will change its decision to deny a conditional use permit for a low barrier shelter at 1332 G St.,” according to the statement.

That decision, according to Pollastrini’s letter, was flawed.

The council overturned the Planning and Zoning Commission ruling not on “actual code, but rather the fact the council did not like the code, bowing to political pressure stating there was no buffer between the facility and current residential/commercial properties,” according to her letter.

The addition of the buffer requirement makes it so no place in Lewiston complies with all city rules for the proposed low-barrier homeless shelter, according to the letter.

The G Street site was the only location in Lewiston that met all of the city’s criteria other than the buffer, according to her letter, which states the city council’s opposition to the homeless shelter appears to be a violation of the law under the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act.

The response from the city of Lewiston to Pollastrini’s letter underlined its support for fair housing.

“The city of Lewiston … intends to fully comply with all applicable laws, including the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act,” according to the city’s response.

The city council’s decision could jeopardize an unspecified amount of housing funding from a variety of sources, according to Pollastrini’s letter.

“The city’s buffer for (the LC Valley Adult Resource Center) or any other shelter is a barrier that creates a poor door also known as a redline of segregation for people with disabilities, families with children and other community members who been historically discriminated against in Lewiston now and in the future,” according to her letter.

Williams may be contacted at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.