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Kitsap Rescue Mission purchases downtown building

Kitsap Rescue Mission Executive Director Walt Le Couteur stands in front of the organization’s newly purchased building at 810 Sixth Street in downtown Bremerton. - Kevan Moore/staff photo
Kitsap Rescue Mission Executive Director Walt Le Couteur stands in front of the organization’s newly purchased building at 810 Sixth Street in downtown Bremerton.
— image credit: Kevan Moore/staff photo

With the Kitsap Rescue Mission’s purchase of a 17,000-square-foot building in downtown Bremerton, homeless men and women will finally have a place to go to get off the streets any time of the year, not just when temperatures dip below freezing. They will also have access to a residential recovery program and other services.

The two-story building, at 810 Sixth Street, is a couple doors down from the Salvation Army which is set to begin a $3 million dollar overhaul of its facility. That work, and renovations to the rescue mission’s building should both be complete in 2015. The rescue mission currently operates out of church at Fifth Street and Warren Avenue and a nearby house.

The rescue mission bought the building for $260,000, but it will need about $1.5 million worth of renovation before it can open, according to executive director Walt Le Couteur. He said about 60 people from all over the county showed up for an open house last week.

“Getting the building was the easy part,” Le Couteur joked, noting that several grants are in the works along with other fund-raising efforts. “Last week’s open house was the kickoff of the capital campaign. There will be lots of stomping the streets trying to raise support here in the county.”

Le Couteur says the ground floor will have a kitchen and dining hall, a multi-purpose room and overnight shelter. A garage space will house dry storage, coolers and freezers as well as an area for recreation. A laundry will be housed in the basement.

The second floor of the building will house the mission’s Fresh Start Program. That program, which includes three phases that can take anywhere from six to 24 months to complete, now only has capacity for eight residents. With the new building, the program will be able to handle 20 participants at a time.

The first phase of the Fresh Start Program, which lasts about 90 days, is dedicated to breaking a participant’s addiction. Phase two involves getting rid of past legal and financial obligations and the third phase is about transition — securing employment, building up savings and finding a place to live.

“We usually modify the program based on what the individual’s need are,” Le Couteur said.

Le Couteur says the new building will go a long way in combating homelessness in Kitsap County.

“Probably the most unique thing about Kitsap County is we are more rural,” Le Couteur said. “In urban areas there are large concentrations of homelessness in relatively small areas. Here, homelessness is spread all over the county, which sometimes makes it a little more difficult. But, I don’t care where they’re homeless, it’s the same issues. If they didn’t have some kind of addiction coming into homelessness — whether it’s alcohol, drugs, anger management, or any number of other issues — they developed that once they became homeless.”

Le Couteur said that the lawst big measure of homeless counts in Kitsap County came in January from DSHS surveys of those seeking EBT cards. That estimate put the number of homeless people in Kitsap County somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000.

“That’s probably low because a lot of homeless don’t want to be identified that way because of the stigma associated with it,” Le Couteur said.

The Kitsap Rescue Mission partners with Faith Link in North Kitsap and Bring it to the Streets in South Kitsap.

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