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State, Catholic Charities launches new 100-bed transitional housing project in Spokane

Washington state leaders are celebrating the opening of a new 100-bed transitional housing facility in West Spokane. The project, which opens this week, will welcome close to a quarter of the residents at Camp Hope, the state’s largest homeless encampment.

The Catalyst Project, is a former Quality Inn operated by Catholic Charities, and is funded through Washington’s Right of Way Initiative. The Spokane region received about $25 million to move people living near state highways into shelter, or housing.

At a press conference Monday, Washington Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar said projects like the Catalyst have been successful in other regions of the state.

“What we've learned and long acknowledged is the best way to resolve these encampments is working with local providers to ensure that the people living homeless are matched with the right services, safer shelter and long-term housing options,” he said. “That upfront work, while it takes time and it costs money, helps ensure that once they leave our right of way, they stay living inside.”

In addition to a private bedroom and bathroom, residents of the new Catalyst Project will have access to onsite behavioral health workers and addiction experts. Residents will be referred from Camp Hope, and can stay in the new facility for as long as it takes to find permanent housing.

The opening of the facility was greeted with protests. Several protesters gathered outside Monday morning to voice fears about drug use or disruption caused by siting homeless services in a neighborhood area.

Catholic Charities, which owns and manages thousands of affordable housing, shelters and transitional programs across Eastern Washington, said they had a nine-member security team and cameras. No RV’s will be allowed on the property and nearby property owners and businesses will be provided security’s phone number to report any issues.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who also toured the new facility Monday, said Camp Hope is one of many camps on state right of ways, and is a symptom of a rapidly-worsening housing crisis.

He said next legislative session, he’ll ask lawmakers for more investment in facilities like the Catalyst Project, and for zoning reform.

"We can't build housing because of our antiquated zoning,” he said. “So we will be asking our legislators again to make more land available so people can have more housing."

The Catalyst Project will open its doors to its first residents Thursday.

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.