KELSO, Wash. (KOIN) — An emergency shelter in Kelso is having an impact on public safety and police resources in the area, officials said.
The low barrier shelter, which houses sex offenders and people dealing with substance abuse, has been a controversial issue in the city for more than a year. Supporters argue the housing is necessary, while opponents said it only promotes drug use and criminal activity in the city.
Adena Grigsby told KOIN 6 News she’s on a mission to shut down the Love Overwhelming shelter in Kelso. She said she’s been against it from the start.
“The safety of people in this community has greatly decreased,” Grigsby said. “People don’t feel safe in their homes, they don’t feel safe letting their kids play in their front yard.”
Between February and May, Kelso police were called to the shelter 179 times. Daily calls ranged from overdoses to fights and thefts. They’re calls local police officers describe as ‘alarming’.
Now, county commissioners are taking action. They’re advising the shelter to add screening procedures to make sure no one with outstanding warrants or histories of violent behavior gets access to the facility.
“The director came to us yesterday and said look, we understand the problems, we are coming up with some solutions,” Cowlitz County Commissioner Dennis Weber said. “They have the resources to do that, they just don’t have the manpower… so Love Overwhelming is going to shut down for 2 hours every day so they will do a better job at screening and processing.”
Neighbors are also concerned the Love Overwhelming shelter is mixing sex offenders with local families.
“They are going to turn away families, it’s not what they are designed to serve,” Commissioner Weber said. “However, they also recognize the responsibility the community has to develop alternatives for those families.”
The director of the shelter said he’ll be working closely with local churches to devise alternative solutions for families. But people like William Foufus — who lives in the shelter — said while there are problems that need to be fixed, not everyone is causing trouble.
“We are trying to help ourselves out as much as everyone else,” Foufus said. “We may not have much money but we are trying to do things right.”