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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane works to leverage millions to clean up blighted areas of the city, including 2nd and Division

Garbage is strewn along East Short Avenue at Division Street, an area with a high concentration of homeless people and drug use.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Spokane’s new mayoral administration will try its hand at cleaning up blighted areas of the city, including the area of Second Avenue and Division Street, using millions of dollars of state money and possibly millions more in federal funds.

Some of that entails literal cleanup, with the state agreeing to reimburse at least $440,000 through 2025 for city cleanup crews at “gateways” along state transportation corridors within city limits, including I-90, the North Spokane Corridor, state routes 290 and 291, and the Division Street corridor, which is classified as part of U.S. Highway 395. The state is working to potentially allocate another $400,000 for these efforts.

The city also has $2.5 million leftover from last year’s allocation from the state Department of Commerce’s Right of Way program, meant to get homeless people living on state property, especially along highways, into shelter and housing. The city expects to submit a plan in the next week or so to request an additional $4 million and hopes to use a significant portion of that $6.5 million to assist with removing the homeless population from around the Division and Browne street corridor.

Funds from that program have been used on services for people living in the Camp Hope homeless encampment, once the largest in the state. It closed last summer. In other communities, the program was also primarily used for similarly large, singular encampments.

No such single encampment exists on Division or Browne streets, but the state has agreed to designate the entire corridor from Sprague to I-90 as a “priority encampment zone,” allowing the program funding to be used to get people off the streets and to clean up the area.

The city is still finalizing its proposal for using those state funds, but Brown said it would include outreach and qualifying the homeless in the area for referral to transitional housing services that the funds could further be used for. Some of those funds could also be used to help Catholic Charities finally move its House of Charity facility, a homeless shelter for men located directly next to the troubled intersection of Second and Division.

Former Mayor Nadine Woodward had for years said it was a priority to move that men’s shelter out of downtown Spokane in the hopes that dispersing the concentrated services for the homeless near Second and Division would help to mitigate the impact to the area. The facility remains in the area today.

Moving that facility and preventing a further buildup of social services in the area remains a priority for Brown, who has called for shelters and other services to be distributed throughout the community.

Conversations about moving the House of Charity continue, however, and no specific site has been identified. Furthermore, details remain regarding what services Catholic Charities would guarantee to provide in exchange for public funds to move its facility, Brown said. She pointed to Catholic Charities’ Catalyst building, which was built with Right of Way program funds to house over 100 former residents of Camp Hope, as a possible parallel for the agreement.

Brown has also asked that the Spokane City Council consider spending $7 million of outstanding federal COVID-relief funds on various initiatives that would help clean up downtown Spokane, including $5 million to further assist with moving the House of Charity. Another $1 million would go to support Compassionate Addiction Treatment, a nonprofit that also provides services in the Division Street corridor, as that organization works to build a second treatment facility, with the intent that it be outside of downtown.

Brown has asked that another $1 million be used to fund the creation of a “Vibrant, Clean and Safe” initiative to help clean up downtown, though city Neighborhood, Housing and Human Services Director Dawn Kinder said Monday that few details had been worked out on what that program would entail.

All of these initiatives are in addition to yet another $5 million secured by the state Legislature this year to help with the city’s homelessness and addiction programs, including $1 million to provide health care services and $4 million to pay for the Trent Resource and Assistance Center, the large city-run congregant shelter, as the city works to close the facility.