Many of Spokane’s homeless shelters were operating at or above capacity Monday as a cold front brought the coldest temperatures of the year to the area and temporary warming shelters were not operational.
It started snowing lightly just before 3 p.m. when the cold front arrived in Spokane, according to the National Weather Service. Within an hour the temperature dropped from 44 degrees to 35 degrees.
The overnight low Monday was projected to be around 15 degrees with wind gusts as high as 45 mph and up to half an inch of snow, according to the National Weather service. The wind chill was forecast to be 5 degrees Tuesday morning.
The weather service forecast a high temperature of 35 degrees Tuesday and a low temperature of 15 degrees overnight, with clear skies and calm winds.
Hope House has been full almost every night since the weather turned cold earlier this month, according to Heather Thomas-Taylor, the shelter director. The shelter can house a maximum of 36 women and has had to direct 10 to 15 women each evening to other shelters.
Many of those women report still sleeping on the street, Thomas-Taylor said. She said Hope House has adjusted its hours to open earlier at night and later in the morning to overlap 24/7 with the hours at Women’s Hearth day center.
“We’re all waiting kind of anxiously for the warming centers to get up and running,” Thomas-Taylor said.
Truth Ministries has been above its capacity of 56 men each night in recent weeks, said Chris Turner, a shelter manager. Most nights the shelter has housed around 65 men, which has happened most years before warming centers open.
“We try to make room for everyone unless they’re on our violent list,” Turner said. “Other than that we let everybody in.”
The House of Charity reported it had no beds available Monday.
As of 5 p.m. Monday, the Union Gospel Mission had 24 beds available for men, as well as one for a woman at its crisis shelter, according to Dave Wall, the community engagement director at Union Gospel Mission of Spokane. But UGM requires people who stay there to be sober and attend a church service after a set number of meals they eat at the shelter.
The city agreed to a 60-day lease to use a building as a temporary 24/7 warming center last week with the option to buy the space at the end of the lease. It was expected to open with capacity for 60 men and women within about two weeks, but could eventually accommodate as many as 120 people.
The city is still negotiating with the Salvation Army to operate a shelter with capacity for 80 to 100 people at another location, according to Councilman Breean Beggs.
Wednesday is forecast to have a high of 40 degrees during the day and a low around 19 degrees overnight with calm wind, according to NWS. The projected high for Thursday is 42 degrees with an overnight low of 23 degrees.
“I think it is important that we have safe space for everybody to sleep at night,” said Thomas-Taylor. “My fear is that as it gets colder we’re going to have more people sleeping on the streets and they’re going to get sicker than they already are.”
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.