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Spokane in search of service providers for Trent homeless shelter after Salvation Army bows out

July 12, 2022 Updated Tue., July 12, 2022 at 10:10 p.m.

The proposed homeless shelter at 4320 E. Trent has more than 33,000 square feet of indoor space.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
The proposed homeless shelter at 4320 E. Trent has more than 33,000 square feet of indoor space. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The proposed homeless shelter on East Trent Avenue has suffered a setback as the agency Spokane officials hoped would be a services provider for is no longer involved with the project.

City officials were in negotiations with Salvation Army Spokane to provide certain social services out of 4320 E. Trent Ave., a warehouse leased by the city from local developer Larry Stone.

But the Salvation Army has bowed out from consideration, Mayor Nadine Woodward said Tuesday.

“These things aren’t easy. That’s for sure,” Woodward said. “It just didn’t seem to be a good fit for them.”

The Guardians Foundation, which runs the city’s homeless shelter on Cannon Street, is earmarked to manage day-to-day operations for the 150- to 250-bed shelter. East Trent was identified by the city administration as the preferred location for a new low-barrier homeless shelter in April. Low-barrier shelters are those that don’t impose requirements like sobriety on clients.

The city is looking for a separate agency to provide services to shelter residents, including case management and access to resources for mental health, substance abuse treatment and job training.

“I think they have different models of how they provide their services,” Woodward said of the Guardians Foundation and the Salvation Army, “and so, it just wasn’t a good fit.”

Maj. Ken Perine of the Salvation Army said Tuesday, “After reviewing all aspects of this project, we decided not to participate at this time.”

The Salvation Army did not elaborate.

Some members of the City Council were concerned that the Salvation Army does not historically agree to Good Neighbor Agreements, contracts used when homeless services are expanded into a community to help address and solve neighborhood concerns. The City Council on Monday passed a resolution to require all future city-funded homeless service provider contracts to include a Good Neighbor Agreement.

Woodward said the Salvation Army’s decision did not have to do with the imposition of a Good Neighbor Agreement.

“We are genuinely supportive of real and collaborative efforts as outlined in some of the preliminary ‘good neighborhood agreement’ language we have reviewed,” Perine said in a statement. “In order for any ‘good neighborhood agreement’ to succeed, every business and organization has to fully embrace their shared obligation.”

Michael Shaw, founder and CEO of the Guardians Foundation, said he was surprised by the Salvation Army’s decision, which he said he was informed of Friday.

Shaw said representatives from the Guardians Foundation, Salvation Army and the city have met a handful of times over the past couple of weeks to discuss the Trent shelter. Shaw said he was unaware of any fit issues with the Salvation Army over that span other than talks over the floor plan and where everyone’s offices would go, but that was “a work in progress.”

“If there was a time to say they weren’t interested, that would’ve been the time,” Shaw said. “I had no reason to believe that they were pulling out at all. And there was nothing that was said in that meeting that would’ve led me to believe that there was insurmountable, irreconcilable differences that could not be worked out.”

The city is now exploring another option, Woodward said. She declined to go into detail, saying city officials still need to have a conversation with the agency they have in mind.

The Salvation Army was one of three organizations that responded to a request for proposals from the city with a plan on how they would function as a services provider for the Trent shelter, according to the city.

The proposals from the two other agencies, Jewels Helping Hands and InMotion Imaging, were disqualified during a pass/fail evaluation by the city’s procurement department. And while the city set aside the Salvation Army proposal to explore other options like contracting individual service providers for specialized care, the Salvation Army was publicly named the administration’s recommended choice late last month.

The city is not in conversations with Jewels or InMotion to provide services at the Trent shelter, said city spokesman Brian Coddington.

Councilwoman Karen Stratton said perhaps the city should take another look at Jewels, given the agency’s involvement with the Camp Hope homeless encampment at East Second Avenue and Ray Street, describing Jewels as “the one group that has been willing to get out there and get their hands dirty.”

“I’ve also felt that if we could look at this in a bigger-picture and find a way to work with two or three organizations, because that’s what I think it’s going to take,” Stratton said. “We’re talking a lot of people and a lot of areas that people need help with.”

Council President Breean Beggs said he confirmed with the mayor’s office Monday that the Salvation Army pulled out of the Trent project, having heard rumors from council staff a few days earlier.

In light of the rumors, Beggs said he encouraged a services organization to reach out to the city. He declined to disclose the organization’s identity at this time.

“I’m really excited about this organization. I think they will bring a lot to it. I’m hopeful the city will seriously entertain their proposal,” Beggs said. “I have no idea when we’re looking at opening it, but we’re further along than we were a month ago.”

City Administrator Johnnie Perkins last month said city officials hoped to open the shelter by Aug. 1.

The setback with the services provider figures to delay that to some degree, Woodward said, as Perkins is now scheduled to give a presentation to the Spokane City Council on July 25 to discuss the contracts with The Guardians Foundation and the city’s forthcoming recommendation for a services provider.

The Trent shelter is a major component of the city’s proposal to spend approximately $24 million offered by the state Department of Commerce for the purpose of relocating the hundreds of people living at Camp Hope. The city and other involved jurisdictions need to submit a plan on how to use the funding by July 21.

“Commerce’s requiring us to show them some movement in August,” Woodward said, “so it’s important that we open it in August.”

In light of the Salvation Army’s decision, the Guardians Foundation remains “absolutely” involved with the shelter, Shaw said.

With service providers, Shaw suggested the city look into an “a la carte” model as seen at the Cannon Street shelter, with nonprofits providing specialty services rather than one organization providing a suite.

At the same time, Shaw said he believes the Trent shelter could open without service providers in place, saying the focus for shelter clients for the first 30 to 40 days should be on “getting cleaned up” and situated in the shelter.

“It starts with a roof. It’s not with a service provider,” he said. “Is there a need for a service provider Day One? No. Is there a need for service providers as soon as possible? Yes. Do we have service providers that are willing to go over there almost immediately? Yes.”

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