Share House, the men’s shelter in downtown Vancouver, remains closed after it was damaged by fire July 31. It’s unclear when the shelter at 1115 W. 13th St. will reopen so that the 58 men who lived there can return home.
“The water damage continues to be an issue,” said Jessica Lightheart, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit.
The fire originated in a room shared by two residents on the top floor of Share House and activated the sprinkler system. This prevented the fire from spreading to other rooms or floors, but water damaged the building.
It’s possible that the Hot Meals Program, which serves needy people around the area out of the shelter’s basement, may reopen before residents return. The kitchen received minimal damage and is fully operational. However, the fire suppression system needs to be repaired, so Share has been serving sack meals at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. for those who are homeless or low-income. Grassroots groups, such as Free Hot Soup, have stepped in to feed homeless people downtown.
Last weekend, a dehumidifying system was installed to dry out Share House. The system of tubes makes the building hot, and Lightheart wasn’t sure when workers would be able to go into the building to make necessary repairs. Damaged flooring and ceiling tiles have been removed.
Share will have to decide whether to make repairs all at once or floor by floor, allowing some residents to return, Lightheart said.
Meanwhile, some residents are staying at Share Homestead in Hazel Dell, and about half of the men are staying at St. Paul Lutheran Church, a few blocks away from Share House.
“We’re very grateful to St. Paul, how generous they’ve been,” Lightheart said.
The church normally hosts an overnight men’s shelter during the winter.
“The guys are doing wonderfully well. They’re so glad to be here,” said Geri Hiller, who oversees the Winter Hospitality Overflow shelter at St. Paul.
Share is still staffing the temporary shelter at the church, which has limited shower and laundry facilities. The men are not allowed to stay there during the day because there is a day care operating on weekdays.
Hiller said the church is applying for a shelter project grant from Vancouver’s Affordable Housing Fund, so it can keep the overnight shelter running year-round. That makes the temporary shelter sort of a test, she said.
Vancouver Fire Marshal Heidi Scarpelli said the fire was started by improperly discarded smoking materials and caused an estimated $10,800 damage.
The loss was minimal thanks to the sprinkler system activating and quickly putting out the fire. However, Scarpelli emphasized, the fire was preventable. Cigarettes should be extinguished in noncombustible containers. Smoking, cooking and candles are the top causes of fire in the city — all dependent on people’s behaviors.
“When you live in a multifamily dwelling, you’re as safe as the riskiest person in that building,” Scarpelli said.