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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Council pledges to fund one homeless shelter, holds off on another

The Spokane City Council approved major funding Monday for a new homeless shelter.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
The Spokane City Council approved major funding Monday for a new homeless shelter. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW) Buy this photo

The Spokane City Council approved a major funding commitment for a new homeless shelter on Monday but held off on supporting a second.

The council unanimously pledged $1 million toward a relocated Crosswalk Youth Shelter in East Spokane, but deferred a $3.5 million commitment to The Salvation Army’s new bridge housing program on West Mission Avenue.

The two shelters will each serve a targeted, but different, population.

The Crosswalk Youth Shelter, which has been located downtown for more than 30 years, will house kids from 13 to 17 years old on its first floor and 16- to 20-year-olds in single-room dorms on its second floor.

Its new location is on East Mission Avenue and close to the Spokane Community College campus, where many of the shelter’s residents are expected to enroll in educational programs.

Volunteers of America, the nonprofit that operates Crosswalk, has embarked on a campaign to raise money to build the new $15 million shelter. The $1 million commitment from the city of Spokane would serve as a local match to a $4 million grant from the state’s Housing Trust Fund.

The shelter’s mission is to prevent young people from becoming chronically homeless, Volunteers of America President and CEO Fawn Scott explained to the City Council during a committee meeting on Monday.

“What our kids really need now is a prevention model, really to get ahead of the chronic homelessness situation we’re having on the streets in Spokane,” Schott said.

The new facility will have double the capacity of the current Crosswalk shelter and its proximity to Spokane Community College will allow it to “embed” its residents “in educational opportunities,” Schott said.

The Salvation Army’s bridge housing program, known as The Way Out Shelter, will house people who are referred there and believed to be ready to transition into permanent housing. The resolution deferred by the City Council on Monday would have pledged $500,000 in each of the next five years, as well as $1 million upfront to help get The Way Out up and running.

Council members expressed support for the project, but held off amid questions about neighborhood support for the shelter.

The building on West Mission Avenue has already been used as a low-barrier shelter to provide additional shelter space during the COVID-19 pandemic. It closed this summer to allow for renovations to the facility before it reopens and launches the Bridge Housing Program.

Councilwoman Karen Stratton expressed concern during a briefing on the proposal that there was no stipulation that The Salvation Army strike a “good neighbor agreement” with the surrounding neighborhood.

The agreement would essentially lay out mutual expectations for the shelter’s operation between The Salvation Army and Emerson-Garfield neighborhood leaders.

Stratton noted that the shelter opened in 2020 without any prior input from neighborhood residents and businesses.

“We have got to have something to show that neighborhood in good faith, because they have no trust in the city right now,” Stratton said.

Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson said the city should ensure that the good neighbor agreement be enforceable and clearly defined, with input from shelter providers.

Although Wilkerson maintained her support for funding The Way Out shelter, she supported the two-week deferral because “this will be setting precedent for our other neighborhood shelter providers going forward.”

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