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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane City Council picks Guardians Foundation to run Cannon Street shelter and delays decision on another

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 27, 2021

Spokane City Hall.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Spokane City Hall. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The city locked down its operator for its shelter west of downtown , tapping the Guardians Foundation to continue operating the 24/7 shelter.

The Spokane City Council approved a $1.9 million contract with the Guardians Foundation to operate the 527 S. Cannon St. shelter Monday. But the council again held off on approving funding for a regional “bridge housing” shelter in the Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood.

The Guardians have operated the shelter since 2020, when it took over the space to provide additional beds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cannon Street shelter is a pillar of Mayor Nadine Woodward’s response to homelessness, which she has made a cornerstone of her first term in office.

Three nonprofits with a history of serving the homeless responded to the city’s request for proposals earlier this year. The Guardians, the Salvation Army and Jewels Helping Hands applied to operate the Cannon shelter.

The Salvation Army has operated a low-barrier shelter during the pandemic at its West Mission Avenue building. The facility will reopen this fall but only to those referred there, and will aim to transition people into housing.

Council members had questioned the cost of the agreement with The Guardians Foundation. The $1.9 million Guardians contract, which runs through June 2022, exceeds the typical per-night cost of a city shelter, some council members noted this month.

Administration officials have defended the cost of the 72-bed shelter that will operate 24/7.

The Salvation Army’s proposal was also about $1.9 million in total cost, while Jewels Helping Hands submitted a $1.6 million offer.

The shelter funding will not be pulled from the city’s coffers. The money was provided by the state Department of Commerce and is related to the city’s COVID-19 response.

The council continues to have hesitations about committing to the Salvation Army’s Way Out shelter on West Mission Avenue.

The city, along with the county and Spokane Valley, is expected to fund the Salvation Army for five years. The city’s contribution would be $3.5 million.

Council members Karen Stratton and Michael Cathcart pushed to delay the vote on funding for the Salvation Army earlier this month, advocating the nonprofit must sign a good neighbor agreement.

On Monday, Cathcart requested an extra week. “There is frustration that we still don’t have a good discussion going or agreement on what we can do with a good neighbor agreement,” Stratton said.

While the Salvation Army pledged to be a good neighbor in practice, its leaders – and Mayor Nadine Woodward – have questioned what would be in an agreement and how one would be enforced.

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