Tacoma homeless shelter loses iconic lighthouse

Tuesday, August 25, 2015
By: Elisa Jaffe / komonews.com

TACOMA, Wash. — The Tacoma Rescue Mission has reluctantly removed its lighthouse, which has long served as a symbol of hope to the down-and-out stumbling in darkness.

“It’s sort of a punch in the gut,” said Executive Mike Johnson, “because the reason we’re here and have been her for 103 years is to give hope to folks. So to have to take down a symbol of that hope, it hits at a really visceral emotional level.”

The symbol is no longer safe, and it’s costing $60,000 to remove. The shelter’s insurance is paying.

The Lighthouse was above an area where hundreds of homeless men eat and sleep. Structural engineers said the top part of the lighthouse had to go.

The mission contends the structure was fine until Sound Transit built its Sounder line linking Lakewood to the Tacoma Dome right behind the shelter.

“All of a sudden we had 5 inches of settling happen and that meant the lighthouse started leaning against the earthquake straps,” Johnson said.

The Rescue Mission is now suing Sound Transit and its main contractor.

“Based on a thorough review and onsite inspections, it doesn’t believe damage was caused by its agency’s construction activity,” said Kimberly Reason of Sound Transit.

She said their ongoing investigation indicates the Mission didn’t construct the building with its own designer’s recommendations.

Kevin Phelps has a unique perspective as the President of the Mission’s board and former Sound Transit Board member.

“We’ve tried to be very friendly in our negotiations with Sound Transit, but all of a sudden we feel like we’ve been taken advantage of,” he said as he learned trial dates had been pushed back.

Phelps also said there’s more than a lighthouse at risk; a community lifeline could be lost.

“At the the continued rate of settlement and some of the issues we’re starting to discover we’re not sure how much longer we can occupy this building. We just discovered in the last week significant sewer issues,” said Phelps.

The Rescue Mission has been unable to find another facility in Tacoma that can handle its needs, according to Phelps, but they aren’t  giving up hope. That’s why they didn’t destroy the lighthouse. They plan to tarp it and reinstall it once the lawsuit is settled and the building is repaired.

Go to the article on the Komo News Website