Warming Center Opening Expected

Kirstin Davis, 509.625.7773

Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 5:25 p.m.

 The City of Spokane is proceeding with its winter plan to assist those experiencing homelessness. The planned warming center will open once safety and security measures are finalized, and the operator will remain Jewels Helping Hands.

Before the center can open, proper permits, operating procedures and security plans, including an evacuation procedure, need to be in place. Tenant improvements are being finalized. The center is on track to open by Nov. 22.

“Ensuring the safety and security for patrons accessing services at the facility is the first priority and additional work is necessary to provide the minimum legally permitted level of operations,” says Interim Director of Community, Housing and Human Services, Tim Sigler.

After the City learned of concerning background information regarding a Jewels Helping Hands operations officer, the City has amended its contract with the nonprofit to require fidelity insurance. Effectively, the change requires Jewels Helping Hands to provide an insurance policy in the event of employee theft.

Public money is further protected by how expenses are paid under the contract. The reimbursement approach requires operators to pay for all expenses in advance and later report those expenses with original receipts and purchasing documentation before they are reimbursed with City funding. All expenses and documentation will be reviewed by City staff to verify contract compliance. Typically, this is a monthly activity, however the City has made accommodations with Jewels Helping Hands to do this every two weeks to allow the nonprofit to run more effectively.

“We have reviewed the information and are confident these changes will provide the necessary protection of taxpayer funding as well as allow us to move forward with our priority of serving vulnerable citizens during cold weather,” Sigler says.

The contract with Jewels Helping Hands was approved by City Council in late October. City staff presented two options to City Council for the contract, and Jewels was selected, in part because of their ability to open a warming center more quickly.

A request for proposals (RFP) was not issued specifically to operate a warming center; staff used the information provided by applicants for an RFP for an operator for a targeted-capacity shelter that was completed this summer. Three applications were received and were reviewed and evaluated. The outcome of the evaluation indicated The Salvation Army of Spokane ranked highest and was selected to operate a new targeted-capacity shelter.

While work proceeds to create additional shelter and warming center capacity, the City will continue to provide ongoing operational support to 24 projects providing direct, housing-focused services for those experiencing homelessness including street outreach, assessment, shelters, transitional housing, rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing and is actively working with community partners to advance the targeted-capacity shelter system.

Shelter services are a key part of the work to build a system with sustainable, strategic investments region-wide that will provide consistent levels of service. The community’s network of providers are equipped to assess the needs of individuals and refer them to services that can help.