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Deadline extended for local officials planning young adult homeless shelter

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 11, 2021

Construction workers work on the roof outside the second story windows of the new Hope House, a new 120 bed women’s homeless shelter that also includes 60 units of permanent supportive housing, Thurs., Oct 29, 2020. The building will temporarily include beds dedicated to serving young adults starting in April.   (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Construction workers work on the roof outside the second story windows of the new Hope House, a new 120 bed women’s homeless shelter that also includes 60 units of permanent supportive housing, Thurs., Oct 29, 2020. The building will temporarily include beds dedicated to serving young adults starting in April.  (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Regional leaders have secured a key extension of a $2.7 million state grant to open a young adult homeless shelter.

The funding, awarded in 2020, was set to expire at the end of last year but officials were unable to find and agree on a suitable shelter location in time.

On Saturday, partners in the endeavor – the cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley and Spokane County – announced they had won the Commerce Department’s blessing for an interim shelter plan and deadline delay, allowing them to begin implementing the three-year grant in April.

The shelter will be operated by Volunteers of America, which also operates the Crosswalk teen shelter and Hope House shelter for women. The agency has argued that targeting the specific needs of young adults experiencing homelessness is crucial.

“This is a really positive step forward for the region and our ability to reach, impact, and redirect young adults from an extended homelessness experience. We appreciate the commitment of the regional partners to finding a long-term solution that emphasizes moving people out of homelessness,” Fawn Schott, president and CEO of Volunteers of America of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, said in a statement over the weekend.

The three-pronged interim plan, outlined last month, is for Volunteers of America to use grant funds starting in April, setting aside 15 beds for young adults at its new women’s shelter downtown and subcontracting with other providers to provide additional young adult beds.

In the meantime, the shelter will spearhead the search for a temporary standalone location to be used for about a year.

Ultimately, the nonprofit hopes to identify a permanent, stand-alone location somewhere in the vicinity of Spokane Community College, with access to public transportation and other services relevant to the needs of young adults.

The shelter is expected to accommodate 44 beds, with the nonprofit hoping its construction is paid for in part by federal credits.

Volunteers of America has focused its search near Spokane Community College because of the educational opportunities it would offer young adults, as well as its easy access to bus lines.

The shelter’s fate was in jeopardy after officials failed to secure a new location before the grant’s deadline.

In November, Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward said she would not allow the shelter to be located within Spokane’s borders, arguing that the city was already sharing a disproportionate burden in providing the region’s homeless services.

Spokane Valley officials had said that they would be willing to allow the young adult shelter in their city, but that current zoning laws were prohibitive and rewriting them would take months.

Ultimately, the permanent shelter could be on either side of the Spokane-Spokane Valley border.

“We heard from the Continuum of Care that the young adult shelter is a high priority for our region and I am happy we were able to make this come together,” Spokane Valley Mayor Ben Wick said in a statement. “We have a real opportunity to help our youth and I am looking forward to continuing our regional conversations around a permanent location.”

Facing pressure from other local elected officials and state Commerce Director Lisa Brown, Woodward relented from her position. But the mayor did secure a commitment from Volunteers of America to take the lead in securing neighborhood approval of any new shelter.

“Homelessness is a regional concern and requires a regional solution that reflects the best practice of establishing resources in different areas of the community that interrupt the cycle of poverty and homelessness,” Woodward said in a statement on Saturday.

“What we are building for homeless young adults has the potential to grow into a regional model for every unhoused population.”

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