COVID Shelter Strategy Creates Extra Room

Kirstin Davis, 509.481.7223

Monday, February 15, 2021 at 8:37 a.m.

A strategy to use federal COVID funding to temporarily house those most susceptible to contracting the virus in hotel rooms has created dozen of extra spaces in the regional shelter system during this cold snap and protected the health of unhoused individuals and families.

Federal funding designated to temporarily cover non-congregate space in accordance with CDC pandemic guidance has covered the cost of hundreds of hotel rooms over the past several days as overnight temperatures have dipped close to zero. Shelter providers have also flexed their spaces to create additional low-barrier space for adults. Shelter providers have covered transportation to hotels and other available shelter space and free bus passes distributed by first responders and system service providers to people in need.

“Our goal with our regional partners has been to promote flexibility in space and funding to make the system responsive to emerging needs,” said Mayor Nadine Woodward, who late last week and again over the weekend authorized additional funding for the regional shelter effort. “The partners have responded to find a warm space for those who are seeking to get out of the weather.”

Continuous and collaborative communication within the system has increased awareness and demand for resources. Dozens of additional spaces have been added over the last few days and Saturday 32 spaces were open and available for use throughout the night. Regional fire and law enforcement agencies have responded to a few cases of exposure among the homeless population and no deaths since the worst of the cold weather hit Thursday.

Federal COVID funds have covered most of the non-congregate hotel space. Additional dollars have come from other homeless funding sources, including the Give Real Change campaign that directs community donations to the orange parking meters and My Spokane 311 team to support homeless resource providers.

The regional partner shelter network is comprised of numerous contract and private providers. Funding for the system is provided by Spokane County, the City of Spokane Valley, and the City of Spokane through local, state, and federal dollars. The Spokane Regional Health District partners on street outreach efforts, wellness checks, and health guidance.