After months of pleading for funding from other government and private sources, Spokane has agreed to commit more than half a million dollars to fully fund a 24 hour shelter system for the rest of 2017.
The Spokane City Council on Monday approved spending $510,000 through the end of the year to resume round-the-clock hours at House of Charity, the city’s largest shelter for single adults. The shelter operated 24 hours a day through the winter with extra city funding, but ended its overflow sleeping program May 1 when funds ran out. The 200 single women and men who had been sleeping in the shelter’s downstairs area were forced to go back onto the streets.
Spokane will also spend $1.1 million in 2018 to keep the entire shelter system, which includes day and night shelter for families with children, single women and teens, operating. Providence Health Care will contribute $173,000 toward that total in 2018 only, said Jonathan Mallahan, the city’s director of neighborhood and community services.
After House of Charity, the largest recipient of city shelter funding is Family Promise, which operates a round-the-clock shelter for families with children.
Asked why the city reversed its position after saying it could no longer fund the entire shelter system alone, Jonathan Mallahan, director of neighborhood and community services for the city, said the city was still working to find other funding sources when House of Charity scaled back its hours.
“The reality was we didn’t think it would be appropriate for the city to fully fund this alone,” Mallahan said. “We quickly came to a different conclusion because we realized funding was not forthcoming.”
Half of this year’s investment comes from previously unappropriated reserves, while the other half will come from other General Fund sources, primarily revenue from recently sold city property, he said.
He said the city could have funded House of Charity hours for another month, but that would have required cutting back hours at Open Doors, the family shelter.
Mallahan denied the change was driven by more visible homeless camps downtown, though the city has cleared several large camps under bridges and around the Spokane River since the shelter closed. He said the amount of camping is typical compared to past summers when no round-the-clock shelter was available.
“You saw a lot of public resources going to respond to those encampments, but that’s not the reason we wanted to do 24/7,” he said. “The purpose of this funding is for people to be safe.”
Spokane will keep working to find public and private partners to keep year-to-year funding sustainable, Mallahan said.
Sam Dompier, the House of Charity director, said the shelter will begin scaling up its operations July 1 and hopes to fully resume 24-hour shelter by August 1. Sleeping in the downstairs portion of the shelter will begin in July.
Though the stops and starts have been difficult for staffing, Dompier said shelter staff have learned lessons from the several months they were open 24 hours a day. They plan to have two staff outside the shelter from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, to encourage patrons to pick up trash and provide security. That addition is based on feedback from the neighborhood, Dompier said.
House of Charity has also shuffled staff around in order to have two additional case managers working at the shelter, which will give them more ways to support their clients toward permanent housing instead of just giving them a place to sleep.
“I think that those will be more impactful,” Dompier said of the changes.
Staff will discuss the change and seek feedback from clients at House of Charity’s regular town hall meeting next week, Dompier said.
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