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Spokane Valley creates new housing and homeless coordinator job

Spokane Valley has hired a new employee to tackle housing and homelessness issues.   (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Valley has hired a new employee to tackle housing and homelessness issues.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Valley has hired a new employee to tackle homelessness and housing issues.

Arielle Anderson, who had been the homeless services coordinator at Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners, will be the city’s first housing and homeless coordinator. Anderson is a fourth-generation Spokanite who graduated from North Central High School before studying political science at Boise State University and earning a law degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Law in Berkeley, California.

She’ll have two main areas of focus: Developing plans for addressing housing and homeless issues, and working directly with individuals who are homeless and service providers. For instance, if a camp of people who are homeless has to move, Anderson will help them find a new place to live.

“My intention is to serve as kind of a conduit, I guess, to bring all the different stakeholders together,” she said.

Spokane Valley has seen an increase in homelessness in recent years, Anderson said.

Spokane Valley Mayor Ben Wick said hiring Anderson will help the city use housing and homelessness grants.

Spokane Valley’s government structure has made it difficult to tackle homelessness issues at times, Wick said.

“We’ve been great at being a contract city, but we didn’t really have a housing or homelessness person to help us with these kinds of things,” he said.

There’s no one cause of the Spokane region’s homelessness problem, Anderson said, but she noted an affordable housing shortage is one of the main drivers.

“The rental market is such that even finding affordable housing is next to impossible,” she said.

Lots of people in the Spokane area are struggling to find housing, but Anderson said it’s especially difficult for people below the poverty line. Plus, there aren’t enough beds at mental health and substance-abuse treatment centers.

The housing shortage itself is a challenge, but on top of that, many landlords won’t accept applications from individuals with criminal records, debt, no recent employment history or no rental history, Anderson said. That can make it extremely hard for someone who’s homeless to find housing.

Anderson said her five years with Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners will be helpful at her new job, but she emphasized Spokane and Spokane Valley are significantly different communities.

In Spokane, homeless services are concentrated in the downtown area. In Spokane Valley, everything’s spread out. Spokane Valley residents often have to go to Spokane for services, Anderson said.

It could be helpful to create a day drop-in center in Spokane Valley so people don’t have to commute as far. Drop-in centers often offer food and medical services.

“That would be one thing that I would love to work on – figuring out a way to make services more accessible,” Anderson said.

Being homeless can feel dehumanizing, Anderson said. Working on homelessness and housing issues is about more than just helping someone have a roof over their head.

“Providing a sense of community, that’s really important,” Anderson said. “You can’t just house somebody and think that that’s going to solve the problem.”

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