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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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As Spokane makes progress on new shelter, state funds available to relocate people out of Camp Hope

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 Spokane City Council is expected to vote Monday on a lease agreement for the East Trent Avenue warehouse city officials have envisioned as a new temporary homeless shelter.

As proposed, 4320 E. Trent Ave. would be used as a 150- to 250-bed shelter open all hours, with surge capacity and the ability for emergency uses, such as a heating/cooling shelter or a clean air center. The property is owned by local developer Larry Stone.

The five-year lease would charge the city a base rent of $26,100 per month plus a 2.5% lease management fee (for a total of $26,752.50), with an option for another five years.

A lowered management fee is among the changes to the lease since it was first discussed before council earlier this month. Woodward said lease negotiations resulted in the lowering of that percentage from 4% to 2.5%.

Other changes include the reduction of an early termination fee – from a year’s worth of rent to eight months – and an option for the city to buy the building.

Monday’s meeting is set for 6 p.m. at Spokane City Hall.

Buying the building, the management fee and the early termination fee were all discussed at points during the City Council meeting earlier this month.

As per the agreement, the option to buy would be available during the first six months of the lease. The city and Stone would then agree upon an appraiser to determine a purchase price.

“The right to purchase is a good option because a lot of money is being invested into tenant improvements,” said Council President Breean Beggs. “The question is, are we going to not need a shelter in three to five years. In that case, it’s smarter to rent it. It’s all up in the air right now.”

The city has not done an appraisal of the building, said city spokesman Brian Coddington.

“We have a finite amount of money that we can sustain or even have to spend on these kinds of services at the city level,” Woodward said. “Having to spend $4 million on the shelter when we don’t even know how long we’re going to need that facility is not, I would say, the wisest investment.

“I like the idea of us opening up a shelter under a public-private partnership,” she continued, “because, I continue to say, government cannot solve this problem or address this problem or fund this problem on its own.”

The East Trent Avenue proposal represents the city’s latest effort to increase the amount of shelter space for Spokane’s rising homeless population.

A more visible consequence of this dearth, the homeless encampment known as Camp Hope, has grown since forming in December on state Department of Transportation land on East Second Avenue.

The state Department of Commerce is offering up to approximately $24.3 million to Spokane County to help relocate people out of Camp Hope.

The funding is part of $144 million offered to five counties in the state, including King, Pierce, Snohomish and Thurston counties, through the state’s Rights of Way initiative to move people out of state rights of way and into better living situations.

The money for Spokane County is not guaranteed at this point, said Penny Thomas, a spokesperson for the Department of Commerce. An award is contingent on a proposal submitted by the jurisdictions involved, including the county and the city.

East Trent Avenue will be an element of the proposal, said Beggs, adding that council staff and the administration are working on what this could look like.

Another element would be to put together “a robust assessment” of those living at Camp Hope to assess their needs, he continued. Beggs said city and county officials are also looking into the potential of using a “large hotel that’s for sale” that could be repurposed, and expanding capacity at existing shelters.

“We have never had the funds to do that and really never quite the full coordination for the scale of the problem,” Beggs said, “so we’re working on those details of what does that plan look like right now, around the clock.”

Councilmember Lori Kinnear said in a statement, “This facility will not be large enough to meet the needs of the nearly 450 people at Camp Hope. While this is one viable solution, the City and our partners will need to identify other locations for alternative homeless solutions.”

While the City Council will likely vote on the East Trent Avenue lease Monday, Beggs said an operator agreement is still in the works as to who will actually run the shelter.

The Guardians Foundation, which operates the city’s Cannon Street shelter, was recommended to operate the shelter by the city’s selected review committee, beating out a proposal submitted by the Salvation Army of Spokane. Woodward has endorsed that recommendation.

The City Council has not been provided the operator proposals despite several requests, Beggs said.

“Not giving us the proposals now will delay the approval of the operator agreement,” he said, “but hopefully, that won’t delay opening Trent because that’ll take a while with the tenant improvements.”

With the lease nearly finalized, work is underway at the warehouse to get the facility into shape, such as improvements to the office spaces, carpeting and painting, Coddington said.

“We don’t have a final timeline on when it will open,” Woodward said, “but it will be based on getting those tenant improvements completed in addition to all of those other moving parts, like approval of the lease and the operator. I think there’s more discussion that needs to be had on the service provider part of it.”

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