Jewels Helping Hands will open a warming center for the homeless on Saturday, but with a capacity it says is far below the community’s need.
The warming center, which will operate 24 hours per day, was originally slated to open on Friday. But disagreements between the city and Jewels Helping Hands over the capacity and use of space at the shelter on South Cannon Street temporarily delayed its opening.
The city and Jewels, the new nonprofit the city selected to operate the warming center, finalized an operating contract on Friday after the city accepted the organization’s policies and procedures.
The warming center will open with limited capacity. The maximum occupancy under city code is 49, but Jewels officials said Friday that it can safely sleep only 32 people in the space it is currently allowed to use.
“We are heartbroken about the need that we see right now in the community and not being able to open up to full capacity immediately, and that’s our priority,” said Tanya Riordan, a Jewels spokeswoman. “But in the meantime, we can bring 32 people in out of the cold and we want to do that right away.”
Once it reaches capacity, Riordan said Jewels will do its best to transport homeless individuals to other shelters with available space.
The warming center will serve meals and bring in health providers to provide assessments and wound care when necessary.
To start, the city has said Jewels can only operate within the room closest to the building’s entrance.
A second room, which Jewels has already filled with bunk beds and mattresses, can be used for storage but not to sleep guests, the city said. That room will open once a city-hired contractor completes safety improvements to the room, including exit signage and upgrading an exit door so that it opens outward.
That work is not expected to be complete until mid-December, according to city spokeswoman Kirstin Davis.
Jewels is pressing the city to complete the work by next Wednesday.
With both rooms open, Jewels believes it can sleep 80 people.
Jewels had hoped to negotiate with the city for use of both rooms, but with a limited capacity, until the safety upgrades are completed. The city denied that request.
A third room, located in the rear of the building, requires more substantial renovation that is not yet scheduled.
The building at 527 S. Cannon St. was purchased by the city for $415,000 last month. It is one of several initiatives spearheaded by Mayor David Condon’s administration and funded by the Spokane City Council to expand shelter capacity during the harsh winter months.
The city has also released funding to expand shelter capacity for families on the Rising Strong campus of Catholic Charities, for adult men at Truth Ministries and for women at the Hope House.
The city’s warming center will serve male and female adults. It is a no-barrier shelter, meaning people will not be turned away for failing a sobriety test, for example. The warming center will allow pets, but they must be leashed at all times.
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