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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Council to seek funds for services programs

Spokane’s need for social services funding came up against the city’s ongoing budget cuts in 2005 during action before the City Council on Monday.

The council declined to approve $900,000 in allocations to human services programs in the city after representatives of several organizations complained about being left out of the funding this year.

The council deferred the matter for one week in an effort to seek more money for a free-meal program for the homeless, a medical assistance program for low-income urban American Indians and client services to people with HIV or AIDS, which were among 19 programs that failed to win funding recommendations from the city’s Human Services Advisory Board.

“Every year it’s one of the most gut-wrenching council meetings we have,” said Councilman Al French, referring to the human services allocation process.

The decision to defer the human services allocations came late Monday after the council voted on several other substantive matters, including an agreement and resolution to consider withdrawing from the county’s district court system. Mayor Jim West wants to investigate the possibility of establishing a separate municipal court to save as much as $250,000 a year.

And in yet another action, the council voted 5-2 for an emergency ordinance that re-establishes the city’s intent to settle its legal dispute over the River Park Square parking garage. Council members Bob Apple and Cherie Rodgers voted against the ordinance, which was approved in part to sidestep a lawsuit over the settlement filed earlier this month by former Councilman Steve Eugster.

But the largest contingent of citizens at Monday’s meeting showed up to ask the council to find more money for social services.

Toni Lodge of The Native Project said her agency was denied its request for $50,000 for a program that serves uninsured, low-income American Indians living in Spokane. Part of the money goes for prescription drugs. The alliance received $18,000 last year.

“I think it’s reprehensible we don’t rate at all,” Lodge said.

Pastor Mark Randall of the Central United Methodist Church said Shalom Ministries, organized through the church, has been feeding homeless and poor since 1994 and relied on city funding help from 2000 through 2003. A glitch in the ministries’ application last year led to a loss of funding. This year’s application was rejected in the ranking process of the Human Services Advisory Board.

The ministry served nearly 38,000 meals last year, he said. “We think we are in a partnership with you,” Randall said.

Susan Fabrikant, executive director of the Spokane AIDS Network, said her organization received $12,000 last year and used the money to obtain other grants. “The need is not going away,” she said.

Rebecca Bishop, chair of the Human Services Advisory Board, said allocations were ranked competitively with about 65 percent of the grants going to programs that provide help with physical survival.

“It was tougher this year than last because of less funds,” she said.

The city handed out $1.1 million to faith-based and nonprofit agencies last year. The money is taken from the city’s general tax fund and is used to lessen the problems of poverty, homelessness, inadequate health care and violence.

June Shapiro, director of human services, said this year’s allocations placed an emphasis on programs helping the homeless, in part because the money can be used to qualify for larger federal grants.

Council members said they wanted to take a week to look at the city’s cash reserves and other revenue sources to see if more money can be provided to agencies that help people.

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