In a few weeks, Spokane will lose 100 shelter beds for women, children and families because the two shelters that serve those populations lost some of their funding.
Family Promise Open Doors’ shelter will go from sheltering 80 people a night, about half of whom are children, to 30 on Monday. The House of Charity, which has sheltered up to 50 women a night, no longer will serve women after July 13.
Meanwhile, a new shelter for adults that the city hoped to open this summer won’t be ready until at least this fall.
Catholic Charities President Robert McCann said all the other shelters that serve women, especially low-barrier shelters like Hope House, are always full, and the women who have been staying at the House of Charity will end up on the street.
“There are no other shelter beds,” McCann said.
Both Catholic Charities and Open Doors receive a significant portion of their money from the city of Spokane, which distributes local, state and federal homeless funds. The city of Spokane recently switched from a two-year to a five-year services funding cycle and received $70 million in requests for funding.
The city had $30 million to spend on homeless and housing programs. Catholic Charities, Open Doors and Volunteers of America’s Crosswalk teen shelter were three of 24 programs that received less funding than they had previously. Twenty-one other programs received the same level of funding or more for homeless services.
Kelly Keenan, the city’s director of community, housing and human services, said the committee that reviews how funds are disbursed recommended more investment in transitional housing and other types of housing. He said the city plans to partner with other local governments to open a new shelter in the fall. He said he wasn’t aware of a plan to fund more women and family shelter beds for the remainder of the summer.
He said the new shelter will be paid for with money the City Council budgeted in advance for the project.
City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said there are 195 low-barrier shelter beds remaining, 328 other shelter beds and 106 beds that people can access through assessments. She said about 120 additional shelter beds will be available in the fall for single adults, once the city buys a building and hires another organization to run a new shelter.
Feist said the new shelter – which was supposed to open this summer – is part of Mayor David Condon’s plan to stabilize the shelter system and avoid concentrating all homeless services in the core of downtown.
The City Council will review an agreement to purchase a property at 4210 E. Sprague Ave. for $1.8 million on Monday.
City Council President Ben Stuckart said he’s been trying to secure an additional $150,000 for homeless services. Other council members have been working on ordinances such as waiving utility fees for homeless shelters so more money can go toward beds, but those proposals aren’t yet ready to be introduced.
Stuckart said shelters that are mostly reliant on city dollars, or state and federal dollars the city redirects, may need to diversify how they’re funded to be able to serve everyone.
“The city can’t do it all,” he said. “Federal and state dollars have been cut, the needs have risen. … This is a communitywide issue, and it’s not the city of Spokane’s fault.”
McCann said Catholic Charities’ homeless funding sources have been a “roller coaster” the past few years, with the money available and the number of people staying at House of Charity fluctuating widely. He said the shelter was built for 109. It served between 300 and 400 people a day until last September, when 24/7 service ended. During the winter, it served a little more than 200 people a day.
Now that the shelter will no longer offer a place for women to sleep, the number of daily clients will be closer to the original capacity, around 109.
McCann said he’s urged other governments – including Spokane Valley, Airway Heights, Spokane County and small communities across the region – to pay their share because homelessness doesn’t stop at geographical boundaries.
“The city’s in a tough situation,” he said. “We wish other municipalities would help chip in a little. All the homeless end up here.”
Joe Ader, director of Open Doors, said the organization’s new shelter will be a good resource for many homeless adults downtown, but it won’t help homeless families with young children.
Ader said early summer is one of the busiest times for the shelter system. There is usually a spike in families who find themselves with nowhere to go right after school gets out, or before school goes into session, and afterthe start of each year, he said.
On average, about 60 people stay at the Open Doors shelter, but the last few weeks there have been between 70 and 80.
Ader said the shelter’s new location at the former Cassano’s Grocery, which will open next month, will have enough space for more people, but Open Doors can’t afford to keep the same staffing levels it has now. Although Open Doors didn’t receive the same level of city funding it has in the past, Ader said he’s still grateful for the assistance the shelter has received, including help to fund its new site.
Ader said the nonprofit plans to host a fundraising event this fall.
“I’m hoping the community comes together for this population,” he said.
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