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City to install indoor plumbing in Trent shelter

Wooden beds at the Trent Resource and Assistance Center shelter. These beds will soon be replaced by 350 metal beds. There is also mats on the floor in the shelter that will be kept when additional capacity is needed.
Rebecca White
Wooden beds at the Trent Resource and Assistance Center shelter. These beds will soon be replaced by 350 metal beds. There is also mats on the floor in the shelter that will be kept when additional capacity is needed.

The Spokane City Council has voted to install indoor plumbing in the Trent Resource and Assistance Center shelter.

The shelter, a former warehouse, often houses more than 300 people a night. Those staying there currently must use portable toilets and a shower trailer. During the coldest months, those facilities have frozen, creating serious sanitation and health issues.

City council members funded the new restrooms with $1 million in real estate excise tax dollars, money normally used to match grants for street, or other long-term projects. The city council is also waiting for a second budgetary request from Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward to pay for additional operating expenses.

Spokane City Councilman Michael Cathcart, the only council member to vote against building the restrooms, said the city is in a budget crisis, partially caused by large, unforeseen investments into the Trent shelter.

“That is my fear, we are going to put a million and a half, to two million dollars into a building we do not own, we cannot afford to buy, and the seller has no plan to sell us, and then what happens when we can no longer afford to operate this facility,” Cathcart said.

Several city council members including Zack Zappone, said they’re also concerned about the financial viability of the shelter – but current conditions are a public health issue.

“It’s an irresponsible use of taxpayer funding to financially benefit a building that we don't own, so 100 percent agree, with councilmember Cathcart there,” Zappone said. “But then I also agree with my other councilmembers that its immoral not to do anything. And that's a choice, to be financially responsible, or immoral, and in this case, we have to spend the money because it’s a humanitarian crisis out there and we have to do something.”

The shelter has been operating without indoor bathrooms since it opened last September. It was opened in response to Camp Hope, previously the state's largest homeless encampment, and to a city council passed ordinance requiring the mayor to provide warming, and cooling shelters.

City council members said the new restrooms will take about a month to install.

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.