City Adding Temporary Shelter Capacity This Week

Brian Coddington, Communications Director, 509.625.6740

Monday, February 21, 2022 at 3:36 p.m.

Mayor Nadine Woodward today announced immediate additions to temporary sheltering capacity as interim measures while conversations continue to introduce stable temporary and long-term solutions.

About five dozen new spaces are being temporarily added to the shelter system for the cold snap through a combination of hoteling and expansion strategies, beginning today. The additional options are for men and women this week. Additional announcements are expected this week.

“We share everyone’s sense of urgency to meet the needs in our community,” Woodward said.

“That’s why our City teams have been working nonstop to continually enhance the shelter system. Partnerships that bring meaningful, lasting solutions take time to come together.”

Here’s what the City is adding through contracts and partnerships so far this week:

  • A contract for hotel space has been expanded through a new partnership beginning tonight. Individuals at the Cannon Street shelter will be referred to the new hoteling spaces to open up access to 40 low-barrier beds at the shelter, which been consistently running at or near capacity.
  • Union Gospel Mission will make 14 emergency weather beds available for women during the cold snap.

The City is also finalizing a process to seek proposals to contract for the operation of a location that would be opened on an as-needed basis to meet extreme cold, heat, and air quality needs. A location has yet to be finalized. A separate search for a new permanent shelter location that is in this year’s budget is also ongoing.

Each are next steps in a plan based on collaboration that makes better use of regional resources. Many new investments and programs have enhanced the system over the past several months following a series of pandemic-related adjustments to accommodate social distancing needs.

The new bridge housing program, which began operating at the end of the year, has already started to reduce the demand on drop-in space. The Way Out Center has accepted 41 individuals into its intensive bridge housing program from the night-by-night system. Two individuals have already graduated from the program and into permanent housing since Christmas. Program completion can take several weeks to several months.

Woodward has also been active with the state legislature supporting funding for housing and homelessness and legislation that returns some of the tools to police to address criminal activity.

Health, safety, and cleanliness work has also been happening in the downtown core. Fencing under the Browne Street viaduct is being tested as a health and safety measure. A dozen additional technology-enabled garbage cans have also been added to the downtown core to keep trash secure and regularly emptied.

The moves follow a series of enhancements made to the system since last summer. Over the past several months, the City and its partners have added co-ed overnight and day-use space, more space for women and families, a dedicated location for young adults, a service-intensive bridge housing program, and extended contracts beyond traditional seasonal agreements for space. Extra litter crews have also been added to clean high-traffic areas.

Additional space is still required to meet specific night-by-night areas of need. A search is underway for a temporary location to meet emergent sheltering needs related to weather, smoke, and other considerations, and separately for a solution that would add more permanent space to the system. Programming for each is anticipated to include supports to help transition individuals to appropriate resources and out of the shelter system.