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Cupid Alexander, the city of Spokane’s leader on housing, homelessness resigns

UPDATED: Mon., June 14, 2021

Cupid Alexander, Spokane’s Neighborhoods, Housing, and Human Services division poses for a photo on Tuesday, November 17, 2020, at Spokane City Hall. The city has hired a Bothel-based attorney to look into allegations from Alexander he was discriminated against because he is Black.   (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Cupid Alexander, Spokane’s Neighborhoods, Housing, and Human Services division poses for a photo on Tuesday, November 17, 2020, at Spokane City Hall. The city has hired a Bothel-based attorney to look into allegations from Alexander he was discriminated against because he is Black.  (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The leader of Spokane’s housing and homeless services programs will leave his post after less than a year, roiling an administration struggling to retain the employees assigned to its homelessness response.

Cupid Alexander, the director of Neighborhoods, Housing and Human and Services, notified city officials Monday that his final day will be on July 30.

Alexander, who was hired last November, declined to comment on his departure when reached by The Spokesman-Review on Monday.

City spokesman Brian Coddington confirmed the resignation. Alexander indicated he has taken a position out of the area, according to Coddington, but otherwise did not elucidate his reasons for leaving.

The announcement came as a surprise, Coddington said.

“The work’s underway to develop a good solid transition plan. It’s still too early to know exactly what that process is going to look like,” Coddington said.

Alexander’s departure is just the latest in a series of resignations among those who manage the city’s homelessness services.

Tija Danzig, a senior manager who oversaw homeless services, left earlier this year. Then her boss – Community, Housing and Human Services Director Timothy Sigler – resigned earlier this month.

The turnover comes as Mayor Nadine Woodward’s administration outlines and begins to implement her vision for homeless services, which includes the creation of a year-round center for homeless services on Cannon Street and a new Bridge Housing Program operated by the Salvation Army on Mission Avenue.

That work will continue unabated, according to Coddington.

“As it relates to homelessness there’s a good team in place still within the department,” Coddington said.

Alexander led the division through the latter half of its response to the COVID-19 crisis, in which shelters were forced to expand to allow for social distancing.

He oversaw the annual Point-In-Time Count, a census of the area’s homeless population that was limited due to the pandemic.

But the scope of his work extended far beyond homelessness, as he was also in charge of neighborhood services and developing housing policy.

Members of the City Council found Alexander’s surprise announcement troubling on Monday.

Councilwoman Karen Stratton voiced concern about “what appears to be the lack of support from the administration” for Alexander’s division.

“They have been in dire need of experienced staff and leadership for a very very long time. This is not a secret to anybody,” Stratton said.

Stratton was part of the interview committee that selected Alexander and described him as always being professional.

“The fact that we keep losing really talented people from that department, the community should be concerned, and I’m being damn serious,” Stratton said. “This is not appropriate. We have too many issues with homelessness and affordable housing, grants, and neighborhood issues and events that we can not have department that is just sitting out there drowning because there’s no support.”

Recruitment is well underway and interviews have been conducted to replace the senior manager at Community, Housing and Human Services, Coddington noted. The department’s director left two weeks ago, so filling that position will take longer.

Alexander was the first-ever director of Neighborhoods, Housing and Human Services, a division created earlier in 2020 following a reshuffle by the Woodward administration, and was the only Black division director in City Hall.

He poured his support behind the Fifth Avenue Initiative, a community revitalization in East Central that had, up to then, received little backing from officials in City Hall, according to Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson.

Alexander was one of few division heads in City Hall to make it a point to connect with every council member, Wilkerson added.

“He will be a huge loss and I’ll tell you, if council had deep pockets, we would have hired him in a heartbeat,” Wilkerson said.

Councilwoman Lori Kinnear credited Alexander for being a “truth teller.”

“It wasn’t convenient sometimes, but he told the truth. He said ‘here’s what I think,’ and based on his wealth of knowledge, it was valuable,” Kinnear said.

Like other council members, Wilkerson questioned the administration’s support for Alexander.

“My observation was they were not receptive to his ideas and how to make change,” Wilkerson said.

Coddington said Alexander “and his team are a huge part of what’s been able to be accomplished.”

Prior to joining the city of Spokane, Alexander worked as an adviser to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. He was a senior policy analyst for the Portland Housing Bureau and a shelter care administrator for the Department of Housing Services for Washington County, Oregon.

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