Months in the making, the city of Spokane’s new homeless shelter on East Trent Avenue is set to open Tuesday.
Dozens on Thursday attended an open house to tour the Trent Resource and Assistance Center at 4320 E. Trent Ave., which can fit 150 beds with space for mats to handle additional capacity as needed, said Mike Shaw, CEO and founder of the Guardians Foundation, the facility’s operator. Brad Baker, a Guardians program manager, will serve as director of the shelter, which will have limited entry requirements for guests.
The Trent shelter is an element of the city’s plan to relocate people from the Camp Hope homeless encampment on state Department of Transportation land at Second Avenue and Ray Street. The shelter will also be used as needed during heat, cold or smoke emergencies.
And while the Guardians Foundation intends to have vehicles Tuesday afternoon at Camp Hope to transport anyone who wants to go, Shaw and city officials are unsure how many people in general – let alone from the encampment – will take to the shelter from the get-go.
“I truly believe that most of the people at Camp Hope, 45 to 50% of them, are in that outdoor transient lifestyle,” Shaw said. “I believe another 20% are there because they’re not being harassed for their motor homes and whatnot. And I believe another 10% there, that they wouldn’t go to a shelter no matter what.
“But I do believe there’s a population there that don’t want to be there anymore. It’s just getting old,” he continued, “and when they come in here and see a bed and food and peace and quiet, I think they’ll realize, ‘Yeah, this is a good thing for me.’ ”
Ellen Smith, the Guardians Foundation’s director of administration, said she anticipates the population to build over time as other shelters have.
“Word of mouth for any shelter is huge,” she said.
Inside of the city’s new homeless shelter, called the Trent Resource and Assistance Center at 4320 E. Trent Avenue, visitors look around the former warehouse, shown Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022 in Spokane, Washington. The former warehouse is being set up to accept those needing shelter as soon at Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
In the months since the property was identified by Mayor Nadine Woodward as a potential shelter in April, Spokane officials temporarily changed the city’s zoning regulations to allow shelters in heavy industrial zones, entered into a five-year lease with the warehouse’s property owner and went through a hiring process that ended with contracting the Guardians Foundation to run the facility.
City officials are still looking for an agency to provide social services for shelter residents, such as case management and help with finding mental health resources or job training.
John Hall, director of the city’s Neighborhood, Housing and Human Services department, said negotiations are continuing with Revive Center for Returning Citizens to provide those services. Hall said he anticipates introducing a services contract to the Spokane City Council during the council’s Finance and Administration Committee meeting Sept. 19, with hopes of a council vote the following week.
“We’re hoping as many people from the WSDOT right of way will come over on Tuesday, but realistically, it’ll probably be a small intake of people,” Hall said. “But if 150 people show up, Guardians will be ready. If it’s 20 or 50, they’ll be ready.”
The majority of the warehouse space Thursday was occupied by groupings of beds separated by partition walls based on the following demographics: Men, women, couples/families, workers and LGBTQ individuals. Sections have changing tents for privacy.
The city is hoping to obtain funding from the state Department of Commerce to expand the Trent shelter with 60 two-person enclosed rooms as well as upgraded bathrooms, showers, kitchen and laundry facilities.
Until those renovations take place, however, Trent is equipped with a dozen portable restrooms and six stalls in a shower trailer, said city spokesman Brian Coddington.
The showers in the trailer are not Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, however, Hall said. As such, Shaw said anyone with mobility issues will be transported to the Cannon Street shelter – which the Guardians also operates – to shower there, and will be asked to stay there.
Conversely, anyone staying at the Cannon Street shelter who doesn’t have mobility issues will have to move to Trent, he said.
“What we’re going to focus on is the sick and lame over at Cannon and the elderly. … We hope to get them over to Cannon where we have all of those handicapped services there for them,” he said. “This is all handicapped (accessible) too. It’s just not as handicapped compatible as Cannon.”
Beyond building up the shelter’s stock of beds, Shaw said other major improvements needed include installing internet and cable infrastructure as well as security cameras in the building.
Councilman Jonathan Bingle described the warehouse as “warmer” than what he imagined after touring the facility before the improvements.
“It’s still concrete and metal, and it probably should be considering what happened to the convention center downtown,” he said, referring to the damage sustained by the Spokane Convention Center when it was used as a warming center last winter. “I’m just glad that it’s going to be open and they’re going to have a space. Winter is coming, and it’s going to be cold.”
Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson said, “It is a start. How confident I am that it’s going to produce the type of outcomes we were hoping for, I’m still very unsure about that.”
Randy McGlenn, chair of the East Central Neighborhood Council, said while Thursday’s open house gave the impression that the Guardians Foundation has a lot more work to do ahead of Tuesday, he’s hopeful the shelter will work out – as are a lot of East Central businesses, he added.
“I certainly would like to come back when it’s operating and more complete to see what that’s really looking like,” he said. “I know this isn’t a perfect solution, but at least it’s something that’s going in the right direction … This is just one piece of the puzzle, obviously.”
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