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Spokane City Council approves lease for 150 bed homeless shelter

Nick Bramhall via flickr

The Spokane City Council has voted to sign a lease on a new 150 bed homeless shelter. The shelter, in an industrial area far from sidewalks and services, has been controversial.

Homelessness has increased by an estimated 13 percent in Spokane County during the pandemic. Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward says the city needs to get a new site online as soon as possible. City council members, such as Lori Kinnear, say the mayor’s proposal has issues – such as a lack of mental health and addiction services.

“I think we have a longways to go, and I’m going to fight to make sure that we get to where we need to be so we can look at each other and say, ‘this is ok, this is going to do, this is a step forward,’” she said. “This is not a step forward to me, this is a stop gap.”

Despite concerns, Kinnear and the majority of the council voted to sign the lease, saying the city needs a place to protect people from smoke and heat.

Other council members said they had concerns about investing in a building the city isn’t buying, such as City Council President Breean Beggs. He says he will push the mayor to purchase the site as soon as possible.

The mayor’s office did negotiate an option to buy the property within six months of signing the lease. The deal has the support of the majority of Spokane’s business community, which has urged the mayor to move shelters outside of downtown Spokane.

Both activists and the business community say the city needs to do more, especially around a homeless encampment, known as Camp Hope, beside Interstate 90 in the East Central area. There are an estimated 500 people living there, which is far beyond the shelter capacity in the region.

The new shelter, on Trent Avenue in Northeast Spokane, is scheduled to open in August and will welcome all homeless adults. Initially it will be open to around 150 people, but will eventually have capacity to shelter 250 during weather emergencies like heat waves and cold snaps.

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.