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City of Spokane to consider operating inclement weather shelter in industrial area

Nick Bramhall via flickr

The city of Spokane is close to finding both a location, and a provider for a new shelter that would provide safe, public spaces for people who are homeless, or who don’t have a safe place to stay during hazardous weather events.

However the proposed site is in an industrial area and the city will need to make some temporary zoning changes to allow people to stay there.

The city of Spokane is required by its own code to provide shelter when temperatures are dangerously warm, dip below freezing, or when the air is unsafe to breath because of wildfires. Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward has struggled to find a space for that purpose due to neighborhood pushback, or pushback from homeless advocates, who say some of her proposals have been too far from services.

Eric Finch, the directory of innovation and technology, told the city council Monday that Woodward’s administration is close to finalizing a provider, and has found a site. Before they can move forward the city council will have to pass a temporary zoning ordinance.

He says the site would likely be in operation for a couple of years, and is meant to temporarily address the inclement weather housing issue.

“It is not meant to be the entire plan, or how we're going to address homelessness as a city, to a degree, those are getting blended and this is just one tool we're trying to improve on,” he said.

City Spokesman Brian Coddington says the site will have power, and restrooms and is already on a bus line.

The City Council members voted to defer the decision to temporarily rezone the site until next week, saying they need more information.

Jonathan Bingle, the city councilman who represents Northeast Spokane, disagreed, saying they should be trying to get people housed as soon as possible.

“I would just encourage us to not push this off too far because I know that we all share the urgency to get people off the streets and into a place where we can better take care of people’s needs,” he said.

If the city council votes next week to temporarily rezone an area for a shelter, they will hold a public hearing in May to hear from the community, before voting on whether to make the change long-term.

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.