Some of Spokane’s homeless may be left in the cold because of the way the city’s warming centers are operated.
City of Spokane officials check the weather forecast in the morning and activate the emergency drop-in centers when the nighttime temperature is predicted to hit 15 degrees or below.
If the forecast is wrong, and temperatures plunge more than expected, the shelters aren’t opened, said city spokeswoman Marlene Feist.
“The centers need so much prep time to be able to open for extra people,” Feist said. “Under the contract, we have to tell them by a certain time in the morning, so we have to go on a forecast from earlier in the day.”
The city has activated the warming centers three times this year. The temperature at Felts Field has hit 15 degrees or below six times this year, 15 times at Spokane International Airport, according to the National Weather Service.
The city has warming center contracts with First Covenant Church, the Salvation Army and Hope House. The highest total number of people to use the warming centers so far this year was 56 people.
To determine how much it pays each center, the city uses a sliding scale based on the number of people who come to the warming centers. The average total cost to activate the centers is about $800.
The city has been operating warming centers since 2006.