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Spokane may lose 80 beds with closure of women’s shelter

Courtesy of Volunteers of America
Hope Houses' current location opened in 2021. It may close its women's shelter due to funding challenges.
Courtesy of Volunteers of America

Women’s shelter Hope House, which recently expanded into an 80-bed facility, may close its overnight shelter in January. Leaders said they need additional funding from the city of Spokane to keep operations going.

Rae-Lynn Barden, communications director for Hope House operator Volunteers of America, said the organization doesn’t have the money to continue operating emergency shelter beds. She said the group needs about $1.5 annually.

“The city and county helped support the expansion during COVID with COVID funding,” she said. “Ongoing, we had conversations when we expanded that we were going to have a funding gap. They were aware, but unfortunately couldn't identify those funds.”

Barden said the other programs that operate out of the Hope House building, such as respite and supported housing, will continue.

In a statement, city spokesman Brian Coddington said the city plans to meet with Volunteers of America to discuss their concerns. He says the city has to go through a competitive bidding process to award any homeless service organization funds.

“The City will provide approximately $1 million to VOA this year and issued a call for proposals (Monday) to fund the continuation of space next year to operate locations that provide places to sleep indoors and connect to services. Volunteers of America has the opportunity to apply for those funds and the City would invite them to submit a proposal,” he wrote.

Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs said Hope House is one of several shelters in the city that’s at capacity and facing funding challenges.

“We're trying to figure out how to prioritize the limited funds that we have, and there's a lot of need out there,” he said.

Beggs said much of the homeless funding Spokane and other local governments spend is limited federal grant money. He says Spokane needs transitional housing, which is usually a several month placements meant to help someone experiencing homelessness connect with services, and prepare to live in permanent housing.

“I am hopeful that if Hope House is going to get out of being a night by night shelter, that those could be turned into transitional housing, which would give access to different pots of money," he said.

Barden says Hope House has been at capacity as the weather has turned cold, and now is turning women away because of a lack of space. She says a significant portion of the women staying there are escaping, or have survived domestic violence. She says many are increasingly older, and can no longer afford to live in Spokane on their own.

In Spokane, homelessness has increased by at least 13 percent during the pandemic, with unsheltered homelessness going up by 50 percent, according to Spokane’s annual point in time count. Housing prices, as well as inflation have increased dramatically during the pandemic as well.