Catholic Charities wants to house the homeless in Pasco

Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington is putting the finishing touches on a $13.2 million, 52-unit housing project to serve chronically homeless people in the Tri-Cities. 

The Spokane-based religious charity has a deal pending with the city of Pasco for 2.25 acres of vacant land on Heritage Boulevard on Pasco’s east side. It is also finalizing requests for funding  through the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, said Jonathan Mallahan, Catholic Charities’ vice president for housing.

“The project is really coming along. There’s a high likelihood we’re going to get this off the ground if we get those allocations,” he said.

If all goes well, it will break ground in 2020 and open the project, named Father Bach, about a year later. It will be the charity’s first Tri-City project to serve the homeless, but not its first local undertaking. The organization operates farmworker housing in Franklin County.

The Father Bach effort fulfills its mission to serve the needy. Housing is a basic human right, Mallahan said.

Catholic Charities has applied for a special use permit to build a residential project in what is a mixed industrial and residential neighborhood. 

The proposed four-story, L-shaped residential building will include office space for social workers, clinics and other services to support staff. The Father Bach project mirrors similar housing efforts in Spokane and Walla Walla.

Mallahan called Heritage Boulevard a great spot for people who need access to services beyond what will be available at Father Bach. It’s close to public transportation and shopping. 

The building itself is designed to be self-contained to minimize the impact on the neighborhood.

It will be fenced with a community garden and on-site recreational facilities.

The studio and one-bedroom units will be reserved for people who have experienced chronic homelessness. Catholic Charities will work with local service agencies to identify potential residents.

Its Spokane residents were homeless for an average of 10 years before moving into housing there.

Mallahan couldn’t say if that will be the same in Pasco, but Catholic Charities is convinced there is a real need for supportive housing in the Tri-Cities.

“We could build three of these facilities and have no problem filling them,” he said.

A study commissioned by Catholic Charities earlier this year said there are at least 40 chronically homeless people living in the Tri-Cities and that at least 700 people experience homelessness in the Mid-Columbia each year.

The study was performed by the Seattle office of Kidder Mathews, a commercial real estate firm.

The project design includes oversized corridors and abundant natural light, nods to the trauma residents have faced.

“It’s a hard transition to move inside. We don’t want people to feel confined,” Mallahan said.

Financing is the primary reason it’s building one rather than three.

Catholic Charities applied for $2 million in housing trust dollars from the Washington State Housing Finance Commission and expects to learn if it qualifies around Jan. 1.

In January, it will apply for $11.2 million in federal low-income housing tax credits over 10 years. The tax credit program is also administered by the housing finance commission.

It hasn’t yet selected a tax credit buyer.

Robert Vralsted of Architecture All Forms in Spokane is the architect. Inland Group of Spokane is the contractor.

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