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Saturday, February 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

With continued investment in Cannon Street warming center, city could use it permanently

UPDATED: Mon., Feb. 10, 2020

Jewels Helping Hands volunteer Greg Cochrane moves empty blanket boxes out of the warming center for homeless people in this photo from last November. Max Romero sits atop one of the 30 beds he assembled for the shelter. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Jewels Helping Hands volunteer Greg Cochrane moves empty blanket boxes out of the warming center for homeless people in this photo from last November. Max Romero sits atop one of the 30 beds he assembled for the shelter. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The city will invest in security upgrades at its Cannon Street warming center as officials consider plans for the building’s ultimate use as a permanent shelter.

The upgrades, unanimously approved Monday by the Spokane City Council, amount to $18,466, a tiny portion of the city’s overall spending on homeless services. But the funding represents the city’s commitment to long-term use of the building, which it purchased in December.

The investment comes in the wake of Mayor Nadine Woodward’s calls to fund homeless services regionally and frequent criticism of the city’s plans for low-barrier shelters throughout her campaign last year.

“We cannot just provide shelters anymore, we have to do more,” Woodward stated in her inaugural State of the City address last week.

On Monday, city spokeswoman Marlene Feist said the city’s investment in a permanent emergency shelter at 527 S. Cannon St. is not at odds with Woodward’s campaign and early term rhetoric, noting Woodward “wasn’t planning on changing anything that was underway.”

The “targeted capacity shelter is designed to try to connect people with the resources” that will help lift them out of homelessness, Feist said. Woodward “likes how that is a progression of that kind of space,” Feist added.

The funding approved Monday will finance the installation of security cameras on the building and new locks. It came from unappropriated reserves in the city’s general fund, a practice Woodward explicitly criticized in her State of the City address.

The new security measures are the second phase of work on the building. Last year, in a rush to open the building as a temporary warming center before cold winter weather set in, the city authorized $75,000 in rehabilitation to bring the building up to code.

The warming center is currently operated by nonprofit Jewels Helping Hands, but its contract only runs through the winter season. If it decides to use the building as a permanent shelter, the city would need to identify an operator. Though “targeted capacity” typically refers to a specific demographic, the city has not announced what type of people experiencing homelessness the Cannon Street site might serve.

In its current state, the warming center currently accommodates about 90 people per night.

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