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Spokane Mayor asks City Council for help in finding new shelter

Today Spokane’s Mayor Nadine Woodward asked the city council for help in choosing a site for a new emergency shelter.

The city recently closed an emergency shelter at the Convention Center without a replacement on Sunday.

In response, the city council voted to send a letter to the mayor laying out that her administration is required to provide adequate shelter beds in inclement weather.

Woodward said she’s spent a year and a half searching, but was unable to find a suitable site. She says the city needs a 20,000 square foot building near transit, but away from businesses, neighborhoods, schools and daycares.

"Council if you stand ready to help, I have an ask of you," she said. "Since this work is so challenging, I'm going to ask each one of you, in your districts, to provide me with a list of three locations in your district that we can use as shelters that have already been vetted. I will stand with you to do the community engagement on that."

Woodward said the city was forced to shut down the shelter because events were planned at the Convention Center, and the building owners, the Public Facilities District, needed a few weeks for repairs.

She estimates around $90,000 in damages occurred, mostly to bathrooms and carpets. At peak times, close to 350 people were staying at the shelter.

Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs has agreed to Woodward’s proposal with one caveat, that the he have access to the search information the city already has, and the real-estate broker service they have employed.

"If we can get access to all those potential things," Beggs said, "than I at least commit to giving you a robust list of places that I'm willing to suggest, and put my name behind."

Beggs says several smaller buildings may work as a shelter, and concentrating a smaller number of people in many shelters could be better for neighboring businesses and homeowners, and the guests. He, and other city council members also argue that approach will also likely result in fewer damages.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.