As its members pushed for the Salvation Army to negotiate a “good neighbor agreement” with the city, the Spokane City Council Monday again held off on committing to fund a new homeless shelter on West Mission Avenue.
The council delayed a vote on a resolution that would offer financial backing to the bridge housing program supported by Mayor Nadine Woodward and county leaders.
The matter is now scheduled for a vote on Oct. 18.
City Council members have insisted that the Salvation Army be forced to sign a “good neighbor agreement” with the city administration and City Council to ensure its potential impact on the surrounding Emerson-Garfield neighborhood is mitigated.
They’ve also sought certainty on whether portions of the building not dedicated to the bridge housing program will ever be used as a low-barrier emergency shelter.
“I do have a problem that we have not come to any kind of consensus on. If that is going to be used as a low-barrier shelter, how does that fit into the agreement, and will Salvation Army support that?” asked Councilwoman Karen Stratton.
Spokane County purchased the building with coronavirus relief funds last year and opened it as an emergency, night-by-night shelter operated by the Salvation Army during the pandemic.
The building is now owned by the Salvation Army, which is renovating the space and preparing to reopen it under a new model, bridge housing, that is open to people only by referral. The concept is to provide shelter for people believed to be prepared for the transition into permanent housing.
The bridge housing program was intended to be funded regionally, with commitments from Spokane Valley, the city of Spokane, and Spokane County.
But the Spokane City Council has hesitated before passing a resolution committing $3.5 million over five years to the shelter, $1 million of which is to help with upfront costs.
Stratton and others have asked if the building will ever also be used for low-barrier shelter.
The Salvation Army has not committed to using the building for emergency low-barrier shelter, but has not ruled it out.
Councilwoman Lori Kinnear successfully amended the resolution on Monday to make the funding contingent on the Salvation Army signing a good neighbor agreement with the city council and administration.
Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson acknowledged that Kinnear’s amendment “gives the administration a little bit more fire to make this work out,” but she said “let’s not penalize the people who will be using that bridge housing.”
Woodward has touted the project as a product of regional collaboration. Like the Salvation Army, she has questioned what would be included in a good neighbor agreement and how it would be enforced.
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