Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘A warm bed’: After long line forms, 24/7 warming center opens in Spokane

People wait in line before checking in to Jewels Helping Hands warming center’s opening night on Saturday. (Emma Epperly / The Spokesman-Review)

The long-awaited Jewels Helping Hands warming center opened Saturday in Spokane to serve 30 people who waited in line most of the day to get a warm bed and good meal.

People were lined up outside the center, located at 527 S. Cannon St., before 7 a.m. when staff arrived, according to Julie Garcia, co-founder of Jewels.

Daniel Balaz got in line at about noon Saturday and had about 10 people in front of him where he sat for the afternoon.

Balaz came to the warming center the Guardians Foundation operated in the same location last year.

This year Balaz said the shelter seems to be “run more responsible” than before and that he is happy they are offering bunk beds rather than mats on the floor like many shelters in the area.

Next in line was Julie Henry, who arrived just after noon as well. She has been homeless for a year and half, along with her husband.

Henry has someone to look out for her, something she credits for keeping her safe.

“No matter where you’re at, it’s not safe if you’re not with somebody,” Henry said.

Before becoming homeless, Henry said she was studying to become a lawyer and continues taking classes online. Without a consistent place to stay, like the warming center, Henry can’t get into a routine, look for a job or continue taking classes, she said.

“I’m really hoping that this will be the saving grace for people to get up on their feet,” Henry said.

By about 2 p.m. staff started to turn people away, Garcia said, even though check-in for the shelter wasn’t until 4 p.m.

While Jewels Helping Hands was unable to open at the original 80-bed capacity they planned on due to a door that was not up to code, the fact that the shelter was opening at all made Garcia “ecstatic.”

“There will be 30 people who have a warm, compassionate place to sleep,” Garcia said.

The community support that Jewels has received over the past week has been encouraging to Garcia.

“They have filled this place with so much wonderful energy,” Garcia said.

People have been lining up at the center since Thursday, Garcia said. The warming center was initially supposed to open Friday, but even as delays and disagreements delayed that by a day, people kept coming to see if it would open.

Jewels volunteers and staff handed out supplies and food but couldn’t do much more to help, Garcia said.

“I hate having to turn people away with a sandwich and water rather than a warm bed,” Garcia said.

The center had already handed out its last set of gloves and was low on socks as well, Garcia said.