After agreeing to increase funding to address homelessness, the Spokane City Council voted unanimously to ask other cities to provide for the basic needs of their homeless population.
In the resolution, which was supported by every council member except President Ben Stuckart, who was absent, the council asked other cities to “take responsibility” and provide for their own residents instead of transporting them to warming centers in Spokane.
Councilwoman Lori Kinnear, the resolution’s sponsor, declined to name the cities transporting their homeless population to Spokane’s new warming centers, saying she did not want to jeopardize future collaborations.
“I deliberately left it vague,” she said, “because I want to be able to work with everyone.”
The City Council also approved approved almost $370,000 in additional funding to support the homeless in last nights meeting. All together, the city has invested more than $1.3 million in the winter warming center program.
She said the city’s Community, Housing and Human Services Department, which is coordinating the warming center system, told her that other cities were moving their homeless populations to Spokane.
In the resolution, she wrote that another city had requested Spokane pay to transport homeless people to the city to use its warming shelters. Spokane could end up running out of space for its own homeless residents if other cities don’t provide support or services for people in their own communities, according to the resolution.
Kinnear said she raised the issue to state that homelessness is a national and regional issue and the city of Spokane has not received support from other cities to address it. She said Spokane County has worked with the city, but she would like to involve the other communities to come up with a long-term approach to address homelessness.
The request came on the same day that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released a report showing that Washington has the fifth highest rate of homelessness in the nation. According to the report, more than 22,300 people across the state are homeless, which is a 5.6 percent increase from last year but a 2.5 percent drop from 2010.
According to the Regional Point in Time Count from last January, there were 1,245 people homeless in Spokane County. About 85 percent live in the city of Spokane.
Councilwoman Kate Burke said she hoped to collaborate with other communities and supported asking them for help, but if they decline, Spokane still needs to continue supporting the homeless.
“I also want to make sure that if no other communities want to support us,” she said, “we continue being leaders.”
Community members spoke out in support as well, such as Mark Richard, the Downtown Spokane Partnership president and a former county commissioner. He said the city of Spokane Valley needed to step up and help the homeless.
Richard said when he was a county commissioner, he worked with the city of Spokane to ensure they had support and Spokane Valley should recognize homeless people live there as well.
“Our entire region, including the one that I live in, Spokane Valley, needs to own the fact that some of our constituents are homeless,” he said. “We need to care for them in our community instead of pushing them, or discouraging them from getting help.”
This story was updated from it’s original version to correct that the Spokane City Council approved almost $370,000 in additional funding for services for the homeless and to correct the spelling of Downtown Partnership President Mark Richard’s name.
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