Spokane County is spending half a million dollars on beds, showers and office space for the city’s Trent Avenue homeless shelter.
The county commissioners on Nov. 8 voted unanimously to commit $500,000 to pay for improvements at the Trent Resource and Assistance Center, a 33,000-square-foot former warehouse. The decision was not included on the commissioners’ agenda.
Spokane’s Trent Avenue shelter has 250 beds. City spokesman Brian Coddington said between 225 and 275 people have been staying there nightly, but the facility could become even busier in the coming weeks.
Mayor Nadine Woodward has said she hopes many residents at Camp Hope, the large homeless encampment in east Spokane, will move to the shelter. More than 400 people live in the tent city, which sits along Interstate 90 on Washington State Department of Transportation property.
The largest chunk of Spokane County’s investment, roughly $250,000 will pay for 350 beds and bed mats, 800 sets of linens and privacy partitions.
Coddington said those beds will replace the shelter’s existing beds, not add to them. Spokane hasn’t defined the maximum capacity of the Trent Avenue shelter, but Woodward has said the facility could house more than 400 people if necessary, between beds and floor mats.
In addition to paying for beds, Spokane County is covering the cost of an eight-stall, $95,000 shower trailer, adding to the shower trailer already on site. Another $30,000 will cover the cost of two portable office trailers.
Spokane County Commissioner Al French said the $500,000 will help the beleaguered East Central neighborhood.
“This camp is a nightmare for the citizens and for the residents (and) the businesses in this area that are being impacted on a daily basis in a negative fashion,” he said.
Commissioner Josh Kerns agreed that the investment is a necessity.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re having to spend local dollars to fix the state’s completely bungled operation,” he said. “We’ll be the adults in the room. We’ll put up the money and the resources to fix the problem.”
The state Department of Commerce has committed $21 million to housing Camp Hope’s residents.
In a Wednesday news release, the Department of Transportation said it’s working to close the encampment.
“The timeline is contingent on the availability of multiple safe, secure housing options for hundreds of people,” the department wrote. “There are not enough of these options available in the city or county at this time.”
The Department of Transportation also said many campers are afraid to go to the Trent Avenue shelter.
“Camp Hope residents are regularly offered the city’s Trent Resource and Assistance Center, and some have moved there,” the department said. “But the majority have issues or concerns about that setting, including some who say local law enforcement’s discussions of arresting people is a concern.”
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said in September he’d forcibly clear Camp Hope if it wasn’t gone by mid-October, arresting people if necessary. The retiring sheriff has since pushed back his deadline multiple times.
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