After numerous delays, Spokane city officials are pushing to open the new homeless shelter on East Trent Avenue in September.
The development of the 4320 E. Trent Ave. building into a 150- to 250-bed shelter with support services has been in the works for several months. And while the city administration has recommended the Guardians Foundation to operate the shelter, the City Council has not approved a contract with the Guardians.
Meanwhile, the city on Monday issued a new request for proposals for an agency to provide services out of the shelter, such as inpatient-outpatient treatment, mental health services, procurement of identification and employment assistance. Responses are due by Aug. 14.
The Trent shelter is a key element in the city’s response to providing more shelter beds to accommodate Spokane’s homeless population.
The facility’s development has taken place as the Camp Hope homeless encampment at East Second Avenue and South Ray Street has grown to more than 600 people on a plot of land owned by the state Department of Transportation. City officials have requested funding support for parts of the Trent shelter through the state Department of Commerce’s Rights of Way initiative, which has offered around $24.3 million for strategies to relocate people from Camp Hope into better living situations.
If the city is able to open the shelter around Sept. 1, it’s likely the services provider would not go online until later that month, Director of Neighborhood Housing and Human Services John Hall told council members Monday. A discussion about the proposed contract with the Guardians Foundation is expected during the Aug. 15 meeting of the council’s Finance and Administration Committee.
Hall said city officials are hopeful the certificate of occupancy will be turned over from the landlord to the shelter operator sometime later this month, possibly by the third or fourth week of August.
Aug. 1 was once offered by City Administrator Johnnie Perkins on when the Trent shelter might open if everything went according to plan. That was back when the City Council approved the lease.
The city has particularly struggled with finding an agency capable of providing the services sought with the facility.
Salvation Army Spokane, once the city administration’s recommended pick, backed out last month from participating in the Trent shelter, with Mayor Nadine Woodward at the time saying the Guardians and the Salvation Army have “different models” for providing services and “it just wasn’t a good fit.”
The City Council in late June approved a lease agreement with Lawrence B. Stone Properties No. 4320, a limited liability corporation owned by local developer Larry Stone. Part of the deal calls for Stone to make several improvements to the 33,000-plus-square-foot warehouse to get the building in shape for the shelter’s needs, such as lighting, exterior fencing repairs and dividing the facility with temporary wall sections.
Several council members expressed their disappointment Monday with how the shelter’s development has gone to date, however.
Describing the warehouse as “definitely not ready,” Councilman Zack Zappone said he learned on a tour Monday that only a few people are working on the facility improvements.
“When we approved the lease back in June, we were told it’d be operational today, Aug. 1, and this is the first time we’ve had an update about that,” Zappone said. “There’s a crisis right now. We’re under extreme heat. Seeing that we don’t have an alternative and not working towards having an alternative is pretty frustrating.”
Councilman Jonathan Bingle pushed back on Zappone’s assertion, citing the expanded hours at four city libraries to serve as cooling centers.
“To say we’re not moving quick enough on the Trent shelter, totally fair,” he said, “but to say we’re not doing anything is, I think, a bit misleading.”
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