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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Catholic Charities eyes Boulevard Motel as shelter for homeless families

UPDATED: Tue., July 27, 2021

Catholic Charities is trying to buy the old Boulevard Motel, seen Tuesday, on the Sunset Highway west of downtown Spokane to be used as a family shelter.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Catholic Charities is trying to buy the old Boulevard Motel, seen Tuesday, on the Sunset Highway west of downtown Spokane to be used as a family shelter. (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The Boulevard Motel could soon be a transitional homeless shelter for families.

Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington hopes to acquire the motel at 2905 West Sunset Blvd., with financial support from the state and city of Spokane, and convert it into a 15-unit shelter.

The nonprofit scrambled to get the property under contract over the weekend so that it can apply for a new state grant by the deadline next week. If it wins the funding, Catholic Charities hopes to have the facility open in October.

Jonathan Mallahan, vice president of housing for Catholic Charities, told the Spokane City Council on Monday that the property could immediately house families, such as those who are living in a van or are doubled up in a single home.

Under the transitional housing model, “we would work with them, get them into this safe, clean place to live while our case managers and support staff work to get them permanently housed,” Mallahan said.

Catholic Charities could add more units in the future and continue to use the facility for transitional or permanent housing, according to Mallahan.

Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson said that when she heard about the grant, she immediately reached out to service providers and asked them to apply.

“These are resources that would not otherwise be coming into our community, and the turnaround would be pretty quick,” Wilkerson said.

The property had been listed by Exit Real Estate Professionals for $2.2 million. It will be appraised, Mallahan told City Council President Breean Beggs Monday night.

Although some members nearly balked at the $2.2 million purchase price, the Spokane City Council unanimously agreed Monday to back the purchase with about $350,000 in matching funds.

Beggs argued that the value of the property is not in the motel, but the land.

Mallahan noted the property is near the Fish Lake Trailhead, has access to public transportation and room for amenities like playground equipment.

“It’s on an acre of land and it’s zoned to allow for more density,” Mallahan said.

Councilwoman Lori Kinnear voiced concern about the cost.

“We’re getting in a little deep here. It’s a little concerning, and it’s just come up all of a sudden, we haven’t really had time to digest or process,” Kinnear said.

Earlier this month, the state Department of Commerce announced $93.8 million will be available for applicants who wish to purchase or rent property that can immediately be converted into housing or shelter.

The deadline to apply, however, is Aug. 5, placing pressure on the City Council to sign off on the plan Monday.

The city would serve as the mandatory matching source of funding. Although it pledged in a resolution to offer up matching funds, it has not decided where that funding would come from – largely because of how quickly the proposal came up, Beggs said.

The resolution also committed the city to providing operational support for the transitional housing facility. Mallahan estimated that the operation would cost Catholic Charities about $75,000 per year, but the city’s contribution has yet to be defined.

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