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Spokane's Mayor scraps Hillyard warming site proposal, seeking other sites for shelters

Rebecca White/SPR

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward has scrapped plans for an emergency warming center in Hillyard, after pushback from neighboring businesses. Other city leaders are calling on her to act, saying additional resources are needed as single-digit temperatures continue.

Woodward was considering turning a city-owned lot in East Hillyard on North Florida Street into a temporary warming site.

The site would have consisted of several temporary structures, heat and restrooms, and would have been available for unsheltered people across the region, such as unsheltered people in an area dubbed “Camp Hope” near I-90 in East Central.

Mayor’s office spokesman Brian Coddington says the warming center was intended to be a temporary solution to the unseasonably cold temperatures.

“It was going to be stood up in time for this cold snap potentially,” he said, “it was viewed as a 4-to-6-week type of engagement as a bridge to get through the winter months, but also to give more time for the temporary solution that will be able to be activated on an ongoing basis to come to fruition."

The proposal hit a snag when business owners surrounding the Hillyard site spoke out against it, saying it was unsafe, and that it was too close to a children’s gymnastic center.

City Councilman Jonathan Bingle, who represents the Northeast city council district, says the site lacks sidewalks, bus routes and grocery stores, and is far from medical services.

“For a lot of reasons, folks would have been there, would have been far away from services that are needed. And so for their sake, it probably wouldn't have been a good location."

Bingle says he has suggested other sites to Woodward’s administration.

City code requires the mayor’s office to provide emergency shelter when its below freezing, or during extreme heat events, and several city council members, including Zack Zappone and Karen Stratton, who represent the Northwest City Council District, have said the mayor is falling short of that requirement.

Coddington says Mayor Woodward is still seeking a site for a new permanent shelter, which would be available year-round for periods of extreme cold and heat.

He says for the remainder of this cold snap, about 40 hotel rooms are available, along with extra beds for women at Union Gospel Mission, and Hope House.

“Everybody's frustrated including the city about the length of time it’s taking, and that we haven't gotten to a point where we are opening those things up,” he said. “They do take time, and they are tricky and difficult, and we do work with the stakeholders in the neighborhoods that we try to go into, and we're learning from each of those conversations."

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.