May 1, 2009 in City

House of Charity could cut summer hours

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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The House of Charity will close its overnight accommodations for homeless men during the summer unless it can find additional funding.

The shelter will remain open during daytime hours Monday through Saturday and it will continue all other services. But it will close its 108-bed sleeping program on May 31 and not open it again until fall, according to a notice distributed at the House of Charity, 32 W. Pacific Ave.

However, Robert McCann, executive director of the shelter’s parent organization, Catholic Charities, said no final decision has been made. He was still hopeful the shelter will be able to maintain the summer sleeping program, which has been running for the past two years.

McCann said he would meet soon with Spokane Mayor Mary Verner and Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick about financing the program.

“We are working with the city to find an alternative funding source,” McCann said.

He pointed out that it costs under $8 a night to keep someone at the House of Charity as opposed to more than $81 at the Spokane County Jail.

The shelter’s summer sleeping program has been well-received by police and the downtown community since it began in 2007.

“We thought we might get 30 to 40 people a night and instead we got about 100,” McCann said.

Tim Murray, 39, has been staying at the House of Charity for the past three weeks while he searches for work. He said he recently had a good job interview and he would be OK, but he was worried about the shelter’s older residents.

“I think we’ve got enough homeless out on the streets the way it is,” Murray said.

The shelter has provided beds to homeless men during winter months for the past 50 years, but for the past two years it was able to keep its sleeping program running May through September at a cost of about $21,000 a month thanks to the state Homelessness Housing and Assistance Act of 2005.

The act authorized recording fees on documents filed with the county, the proceeds to be used in large part to alleviate homelessness. The city administers these funds. Since 2005, however, the number of documents recorded has dropped nearly 26 percent.

As of July 26, the recording fee will increase from $42 for the first page to $62, according to Auditor Vicky Dalton.

In March, the city appropriated $835,000 from this fund to several area social services agencies. Catholic Charities was awarded $198,000 for housing and shelter services, about $15,000 less than it received in 2008.

Catholic Charities had requested $295,000.

“The challenge is that everyone is feeling the pinch of the economy,” city spokeswoman Marlene Feist said of social service organizations.

Catholic Charities was no exception. In March, McCann told The Spokesman-Review that the agency’s annual Christmas fund drive was down about $100,000.

Kevin Graman can be reached at kevingr@spokesman.com or (509)459-5433.

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