Pierce County wants to convert another motel into a homeless shelter. This is where

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — Fife could be the next place where officials convert a motel into a homeless shelter.

The director of county Human Services Heather Moss told the Pierce County Council on Monday that staff is working with the City of Fife to identify a motel for such a project.

The county has set aside $5 million of federal COVID-19 dollars for the purchase, and Fife has promised up to $1.8 million.

It would be the second time Pierce County has been involved in a project to convert a motel into a homeless shelter. The county, Tacoma and Lakewood jointly purchased the Comfort Inn in October to become Tacoma’s newest homeless shelter. The government spent $8.8 million to purchase a 94-bed, three-story hotel at 8620 S. Hosmer St.

Congress approved the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in March 2021, which passed along $130.2 billion dollars to local governments to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pierce County is slated to receive $175 million over a two-year period. Governments can spend the money on payroll and expenses for such things as public safety, public health, health care and human services.

The purchase of a Fife motel, along with much of the Pierce County’s $253 million homeless and affordable housing budget, fall into the human services category of ARPA restrictions.

No motel has been purchased, but the county is looking for an organization to run the program. The bidding process for providers opened on April 29. Human Services spokesperson Kari Moore said staff want to see if a homeless service provider has a lead already before locating and buying a motel.

“So that’s happening right now. I’m really excited about that one,” Moss said. “We know that there are at least two or three providers who are looking at potential hotel operations in Fife for our homeless population.”

The county identified Fife for investment in homeless resources because of the need there, Moore said.

“It will expand our shelter options outside of Tacoma, and Fife was open to a partnership,” she said in an email.

Fife is also contributing federal dollars for the proposal. Fife City Council approved a resolution at a December council meeting to consider providing up to $1.8 million in ARPA funds of its $2.8 million ARPA allocation to convert a hotel or motel into a homeless shelter.

The city of Fife is working with the county to try to secure a second service provider, spokesperson Kelsey Geddes said.

The city launched a jobs program in October.

In this three-pronged approach, the city provides housing and shelter, a job and wages and food and hygiene services for each participant. Geddes told The News Tribune on Wednesday the program has eight participants progressing through the year-long program.

“The goal of this program is to provide housing insecure and underemployed citizens of Fife job training and skills tied to dignified work and public benefit within the city of Fife,” Geddes said in an email. “We’ve already seen tremendous results and community support over the last six months.”