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Spokane City Council Puts Off Shelter Management Decision

Salvation Army

Fall is here and the city of Spokane is beginning to feel the need to lock in plans for emergency shelters for this winter.

But plans are still not settled. The city has no shelter locked in and few concrete details. Because of that, the city council voted Monday night to wait before choosing an agency to operate whatever facility they ultimately decide on.

Going into Monday night’s meeting, the city had a partial plan in place. Hire the Salvation Army to operate the city’s temporary emergency shelter for the winter months.

When the city council opened the idea up to public comment, Nicolette Ogletree shot it down because she says the Salvation Army has a religious mission.

“The task of ensuring the Salvation Army will not discriminate against non-religious citizens, members of the LGBTQ+ community and, in particular, members of our transgender community will cause the city of Spokane to become excessively entangled with a religious organization, Salvation Army, that has a history, a known history, of just that," Ogletree said.

Others questioned the proposal, including city councilwoman Kate Burke.

“I’m not really fully understanding why we’re voting on this when we don’t have a location set up yet," Burke said.

That led to a brief, testy exchange with Council President Ben Stuckart.

Councilwoman Karen Stratton said she and her colleagues have watched city staff try all year to develop a strategy to shelter and care for people who are homeless. But she says it hasn’t worked out and people feel the clock ticking to cold weather.

“The administration has sat back and watched this slow down to a halt and here we sit," Stratton said. "We all want the same thing. We all care about doing the right thing and we’re all getting angry at each other because this is so frustrating and I understand it.”

The council voted to put off any decisions about shelters until next week when they would have more information. The city is considering several options for shelters. The agreement with the Salvation Army would have provided 24/7 help for 60 people and overnight accommodations for another 60.