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Renovation continues on new day shelter at Renton City Hall

Rev. Linda Smith, center director, and Maggie Breen, REACH chair, survey the new Center of Hope with contractor Justin Jensen. The new women and children
Rev. Linda Smith, center director, and Maggie Breen, REACH chair, survey the new Center of Hope with contractor Justin Jensen. The new women and children's day shelter is being constructed in the basement of City Hall.
— image credit: Tracey Compton, Renton Reporter

Renovation work continued this week on a new women and children's day center in the former jail at Renton City Hall.

Walls are being knocked down, jail bars and heavy doors removed and lots of painting is planned to convert the space into the REACH Center of Hope. REACH – Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches – has contracted with the City of Renton to provide the day center shelter for three years.

The space is being renovated to host about six families, who will be transported to area churches to stay overnight. The Center of Hope plans to host about 100 families a year.Monday morning it was high-fives and astonished remarks as REACH team members surveyed the space with the contractor Justin Jensen. He's hard at work with his crew getting rid of furniture and fixtures that belonged to the jail.

A new entry is being created, along with bathrooms and new fire and safety equipment will be installed. The rooms will be outfitted with electric plug-ins. The Renton Police Department will still have some operations in the basement, but two facilities will be separated and have different entrances. Jensen has been discussing his ideas for how to make the center feel less institutional with Maggie Breen, REACH chair.

"We're still working toward the 6th," said Breen of opening day in May. "It may be pushed out to a couple of weeks, but we're ready to go."

She toured the facility with Rev. Linda Smith, center director.

"This will stabilize people so they can get housing quicker," said Smith. "People will be given as much time as they need." "This is really looking good," she said, giving Breen a high-five.

Youth volunteers from the Renton Stake, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints, were also on site Monday morning, moving fixtures and helping with the renovation work. Dave Gillespie, REACH member, instructed the volunteers on Monday. He is the facilities coordinator on the project.Gillespie said he is impressed by how involved the City of Renton has been in helping the plans come together.

"I think that we've got to make this work," Gillespie said. "There's no other alternative; we've got to make this work."

The day center will have a kitchen, showers, gathering room, a lunch room, a quiet room and a computer room among other areas. St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Renton will be the first church to host homeless women and children overnight in the program. Transportation details to and from the day center are still being worked out. Rev. Scott Anderson and his wife Barbara toured the facility with the group on Monday, taking pictures while his wife looked at signage options.

"The idea is to make this as much like home as possible," said Smith.

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