The Spokane City Council approved a purchasing agreement for a new shelter for people who are homeless at the border of Spokane and Spokane Valley that could serve more than 100 people starting this fall.
City Council President Ben Stuckart said the city planned to split the cost of the $1.8 million property near the corner of Sprague Avenue and Havana Street with Spokane County. The shelter would help the city avoid spending money on temporary warming center beds as it did last winter. The unanimous vote Monday included a $50,000 earnest payment which will allow the city to make any inspections it needs before the approving the final sale.
The new shelter is more than 3 miles from where many of the other services are in downtown Spokane and was once an Albertsons and, later, a Grocery Outlet store. In a statement from Mayor David Condon last week, he said the shelter is part of the city’s efforts to expand services beyond the downtown core.
Several advocates from the intellectual disability center right behind the proposed shelter, Project ID, spoke out against the shelter, saying it would put their vulnerable patrons at risk.
Rick Pisani, the treasurer for the Project ID Board, said he was concerned that many of the people who visit the disability center could easily be taken advantage of because of how trusting they are.
“Unfortunately they don’t have a filter,” he said. “They don’t have the ability to stop and say, this person might hurt me.”
The President of the Project ID Board, Lisa Pisani, said the she was concerned that a shelter could make an already unsafe area, more dangerous.
“It’s not the population in the shelter I’m concerned about,” she said. “Homeless shelters are great and I think we need them. My problem is what’s going to be on the outside.”
She said she was concerned that people who were turned away from the shelter would loiter and make it more dangerous for vulnerable people visiting Project ID for services.
Other community members also criticized the shelter, saying it could make an already dangerous neighborhood worse, or cast a bad light on Spokane when people are visiting the nearby fairgrounds.
Stuckart said if the city didn’t open a shelter, it could end up spending more than $1 million on more warming centers. If the city doesn’t open a shelter, there could also end up being camps of people who are homeless across the region because the city can only enforce it’s anti-camping law when there are open beds at low-barrier shelters.
He said the city will face criticism wherever it tries to open a shelter.
“You’re going to have opposition to a shelter in any single neighborhood in Spokane,” he said.
He said the new shelter also might make the neighborhood feel safer, because the people who were using drugs and sleeping outside in the neighborhood will now have a shelter to use.
City officials plan to host a community meeting at the proposed shelter on July 30. A time has not been publicized.
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